PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5/AP) -- A huge crowd gathered at a Phoenix church Tuesday to hear President Donald Trump speak at a "Students of Trump" campaign rally. “I’m thrilled to be in Arizona with thousands of patriotic young Americans," he said as he welcomed the crowd.
But as the president spoke, conflict was growing outside the venue. Hundreds of protesters were marching in the free speech zone. As the crowd grew louder and and more aggressive, Phoenix police declared an unlawful assembly. Officers had to use flash bangs on protesters as they started blocking the street. Our crews reported hearing several loud bangs.
Phoenix police say during the commotion, two officers were assaulted by demonstrators. One of the officers was punched. Police also say no one was transported to the hospital or seriously injured from pepper balls or pepper spray. However, our Arizona's Family crew spoke to a medic who says she helped tend to a 9-year-old who was hit by a pepper ball. She said she "saw a massive red welt and bruising" on his neck.
#BREAKING: Phoenix Police just declared an unlawful assembly and have used flash bangs on protesters outside President Trump’s rally as they started getting rowdy and blocking the street. Heard several large bangs. #TrumpInAZ #TrumpRallyPhoenix #azfamily pic.twitter.com/qYLYumRh2Q— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) June 23, 2020
This is what a medic experienced outside the Trump rally in Phoenix as Phoenix PD deployed pepper balls & pepper spray and called an unlawful assembly. She was treating somebody for heat exhaustion, then treated a young boy shot in the back of his neck by a pepper ball#azfamily pic.twitter.com/gQjqyYfm9K— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) June 24, 2020
Trump's event took place at Dream City Church on Cave Creek and Thunderbird roads. The church was packed with Trump supporters, many of them young Republican voters. The church holds 3,000 people, and almost every seat was filled.
The president did not wear a mask during his speech. A few attendees wore masks, but it appeared that most did not. Church leaders had said masks would be encouraged but not required. Face masks are mandatory in public places in Phoenix, but Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had said that the mask mandate would not be enforced at the president's rally.
During his speech, the president encouraged the crowd to get out and vote in November. He criticized Democratic nominee Joe Biden, saying if "Sleepy Joe" got elected, "this country would be a mess."
“The radical left - they hate our history, they hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans," he said. "Our country didn’t grow great with them, it grew great with you.”
Hundreds of people started lining up to get the best seats at President Trump's rally in north Phoenix as early as midnight Tuesday morning.
The church has been facing backlash after a video started making the rounds on social media Monday. On the video, church pastors claimed their new air purifying system could kill 99.9% of COVID-19. But the system has not been tested by the CDC. And, a local ER doctor said the filtration system doesn't work when people are close to each other.
Outside the church in the "free speech zone," hundreds of protesters marched along the roadway, holding signs and chanting “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “Black Lives Matter." Some protesters wore masks, but many did not.One woman told our Arizona's Family crew, “This is America and I have the choice to wear a mask or not... and I choose not to.”
It was about an hour after Trump began speaking that crowds began blocking the streets and police declared unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to peacefully disperse. Again, Phoenix police say two officers were assaulted by the protesters, and one officer was punched.
Some of the demonstrators were Trump supporters. But most others were voicing their opposition against the president.One woman said she believes Trump is the reason the COVID-19 pandemic has become so dire in the U.S.
During his speech Tuesday, the president mentioned the COVID-19 spike in Arizona. "We want to do testing; we want to do everything," he said. "But they use it to make us look bad."
President Trump's first stop in Arizona Tuesday morning was in Yuma. He, along with a group of state lawmakers, visited the U.S. - Mexico border to inspect a new section of the concrete and rebar structure. They all took a moment during the brief visit to scrawl their signatures on the wall. “Our border has never been more secure,” Trump said.
Trump credits the border wall with stopping not just illegal immigration but also the coronavirus. He says the wall "stopped COVID, it stopped everything."
But his visit played out as top public health officials in Washington were testifying about the ongoing threat posed by coronovirus and singling out Arizona as one of the states experiencing a surge in cases. Since late May, Arizona has emerged as one of the nation’s most active hot spots for the spread of COVID-19. And despite a mandate in Phoenix, we saw very few people inside the rally or outside protesting wearing a mask.
Democrats slammed Trump's visit to Arizona. “Let’s be clear, right now the president should not be in Arizona," said Congressman Ruben Gallego. "We are dealing with a very, very hard situation, where we have an increasing infection rate of COVID-19, even more, so it’s severely impacting our most vulnerable communities.
We’re making incredible progress on securing our border! Great visit to the 200th mile of the border wall today with @realDonaldTrump, @dougducey, and @RepDLesko.📸 Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead pic.twitter.com/Tg3FNViDN1— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) June 24, 2020
You can watch President Donald Trump's rally in its entirety below:
MORE: Phoenix PD says no one was transported to the hospital or injured from the pepper balls and pepper spray. However, I did speak to a medic who was out here and told me she helped tend to a 9 year old who was hit by a pepper ball. #azfamily— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) June 24, 2020