Questions from police response to Trump protest still unanswered

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Phoenix police recently released nearly 4,000 photos and videos from the protest outside of the rally for President Donald Trump that took place in Phoenix last August at the request of the Phoenix New Times and the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to Phoenix New Times Reporter Sean Holstege, who reviewed the surveillance footage, there are still questions left unanswered. One claim, that police warned protestors before using crowd dispersal tools such as pepper balls and tear gas, could not be verified in the video footage. Holstege says investigators will need to dig deeper to uncover the truth.

Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, video from the protests following president Trump's Phoenix rally last summer shows a tense scene that raises a lot of questions. Protests following president trumps' rally in downtown phoenix last summer turned violent with both police and the protestors claiming that the other side instigated the trouble. Reporter Sean Holstege recently reviewed close to 4-thousand photos and videos from police surveillance and witness cameras. Here's is just some of what is seen.

Video: On August 22nd, night was falling over Downtown Phoenix as supporters of President Trump were heading home. For hours the day's protest were marked by tension and angry provocative chance but little else. Suddenly violence broke out in front of the convention center and debate has raged on what happens what happened and why. What you are about to see is experts of the raw foot the Phoenix Police Department turned over. Key questions remain unanswered. [screaming and cars screeching]

Video: Police insist they reacted to bottles and other object said being thrown at them and the footage seems to support that. You can hear protesters begging people to stop but you cannot hear verbal commands. Police say they warned the protesters but the protesters insist they didn't. Some called it chaotic and violent and the police say it was measured. Some call into the claims nobody was seriously hurt.

Video: Are you okay?

Ted Simons: Joining us now to talk more about what he found when reviewing the protest footage is Sean Holstege, who reported this story for the phoenix new times.

Sean Holstege: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: This raw video from the Phoenix Police Department. How did you get ahold of it?

Sean Holstege: We would to make a publish records request and it took about 2-3 months to get filled.

Ted Simons: Was it a difficult request to get filled?

Sean Holstege: It was a process. The context of this is everything. The police immediately came ow after the protest with footage of their own, some of what we saw and it seems to support their version of the events so it is in their interest to release this material. We wanted to find out what is can corroborated and what can we say definitively. We made a record request and told it would be filled quickly and it took a story I wrote and a report from the ACLU before they released it.

Ted Simons: Take us through what we are watching. This happened over the summer following a Trump rally in Downtown Phoenix outside the Convention Center. What are we looking at?

Sean Holstege: This is the initial response of the tear gas being fired off. You don't see hoards of people stampeding away. Hear you see the police pushing the remnants of the crowd back. Not a large crowd or stampede. The police are spotlighting people they label as agitator and this is the response. This man in the blue shirt is about to be shot in the back with what we think is pepper spray or tear gas but you don't see him charging the line before that. What you also don't see is the police responding. You can see the bottles getting thrown at them and the vast majority were plastic bottles but they are taking the blows off the shields before advancing slowly. They are not charging. It is a pretty contained environment.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, what does this video refute?

Sean Holstege: What I think -- the owning only thing it says definitively is the genesis of the disturbance. The first plastic bottle and the blue gas was the initial genesis. After that the police responded and you can hear the crack, crack, crack and that is pepper ball guns being fired. Then it a graduated response beyond that. If that is where the agreement stops, the debate over the violence here greatly disproportionate to the problems. This was not a large-scale disturbance. If you think the police responded -- responded are heavy hands there is context in that video. But the police say that is evidence of us taking a graduated measured response. The was people fleeing and screaming but how badly injured? The only people reported were people who suffered from heat injuries.

Ted Simons: we had an ASU professor down there and he got hit in the face with one of these pepper balls. That sounds more than heat.

Sean Holstege: Right. That is partial with a large civil disturbance and then the question is to what extent is that a serious medical concern? The ACLU reported they saw footage suggesting the police were planting something and activist groups have independently reported that dozens of people were taken to the emergency room but with what conditions we don't know which is why we still need the rest of the records to round out the entire story.

Ted Simons: Something else I'm not seeing as much as I would like is police warning protesters.

Sean Holstege: That is one of the big controversies. The police insisted they gave verbal warnings to the crowd before the first round of pepper balls were shot. That may or may not be true but nothing in any of the hundreds of videos and photos I looked at has audio to support that claim. Until we get supporting documentation from the police in the remainder of the records request, we will not know that.
Ted Simons: What is the remainder of the records request?

Sean Holstege: Several media agencies including the ACLU asked for transcripts of police on the scene, audio recordings from communication, policy and procedures and a variety of things that complement what we see. The video is off Rodney King. Remember Rodney King? Absent other context it is easy to misinterpret what is being said. You need the directions, the orders, what were they told. One of things you see in this video is the spotlight on some of the people throwing plastic bottles elsewhere. Not on this video is a lot of footage who they targeted for surveillance perceiving them as agitators on both sides of the political spectrum. They knew they had trouble coming in. This is a week after the events in Virginia. We don't know what the troops on the ground were directed to be on the lookout for.

Ted Simons: Last question what is the time table?

Sean Holstege: The police department says by the end of the year and are sticking to that.

Ted Simons: within a couple weeks? Then you have a whole new set of situations to look at and information to go over.

Sean Holstege: And then we have to see if the videos, photos and reports corroborate.

Sean Holstege: Reporter, Phoenix New Times

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