On Saturday, March 19, 2016, businessman and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a rally at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona. Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of how the event unfolded, and it was difficult to get the full story from just supporters of Trump and the protesters, so we reached out to the Tucson Police Department (TPD) to get their side of the story.
The transcript of that official statement is included below, and was received today, March 22, 2016. The author of the official statement is Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus.
It is true that there were protesters, as well as Trump supporters, who were escorted out of the building based on their disruptive behavior. The grounds and adjacent property outside the building are areas where members of the public can freely gather or assemble. TPD could not prohibit supporters or protesters from remaining in these areas. I was present before, during, and after the event both outside and inside the building.
Protesters were physically separated from the line of individuals entering the building to attend the rally. I specifically stood for several hours with the police officers who created the barrier between protesters and event attendees, so I had an excellent view of exactly what occurred. It is fair to say that many of the protesters were loud, worked up, and hostile towards Trump supporters entering the venue.
To be fair, I should also note that quite a few of the Trump supporters waiting in line were also provocative towards the protesters. There were multiple occasions when attendees jeered and yelled profanities at the protesters, made obscene gestures, and tried to physically engage with them. The bottom line is that a number of protesters and supporters behaved badly and seemed to be looking for opportunities to rile up each other. I was very impressed with how our officers kept these folks separated from each other and were able to keep tensions from reaching a point where public safety was compromised. No Trump supporters were denied access to the rally as a result of blocked ingress or protester activity. It is true that the North exit was opened to provide a safe egress for attendees to leave the rally because protesters blocked the front doors once the event was underway and after our personnel working with the Secret Service had made a decision to close the front doors. It would have further inflamed an already challenging situation for officers to have physically arrested these individuals. In addition, no request was made by the Trump campaign (who leased the venue) or the TCC staff to make such arrests. I believe it was a smart decision to have the rally attendees exit through the North and other doors as a way to further separate Trump supporters from protesters.
We were amply staffed. Ultimately, we had approximately 150 officers working the event who were supplemented by private security, Secret Service officers, and various other law enforcement personnel. If additional resources had been deemed necessary, we could have drawn from our patrol staff to obtain them. Staffing decisions for these events are based on extensive consultation with the Secret Service, the candidates’ staff, and TCC management. Considerations include the expected size of the crowd, intelligence regarding possible protests, and the need for fiscal responsibility.
Arizona DPS personnel were involved with activities on the freeway nearby. At one point, it looked like there was an effort to obstruct free access on the roads around the TCC. We dealt with this problem and some of those drivers moved to the freeways nearby. The AZ DPS took care of these problems. Their assistance at the TCC was not needed and they do not have jurisdiction in the City.
We did utilize additional officers to work the event when the determination was made that additional personnel were needed. There were several arrests made associated with assaults at the event. One assault involved a Trump supporter punching and beating a protester. The other involved a protester assaulting a Trump supporter.
The protests were loud and tempers were inflamed on both sides, but it is not accurate to say the protests were violent. The individual punched and stomped by the Trump supporter inside the TCC did not, to our knowledge, seek medical treatment or sustain any serious injuries. In fact, he gave several TV interviews a short time after the assault. The individual who assaulted him was immediately taken into custody by TPD officers. Other than this there were no incidents of violence reported to our department.
The Tucson Police Department was lauded by the Secret Service, the candidate’s staff, and many persons who attended the rally (pro and con) for keeping this a safe event despite the strong feelings (and in some instances, not so good behavior) generated on both sides. I think the Mayor and City Council have done a good job supporting Tucson’s police department and allowing us to make good decisions in how we handle events and challenges of this kind.
Chief Chris Magnus
We’d like to thank the Tucson police department for the great job they do each and every day, and specifically, Chief Magnus for his keen insight and professionalism for allowing us to receive and print an official statement from the TPD on Trump’s rally in Tucson.
Thank you to the TPD for a job well done!