Tension between pro-police rally goers and Black Lives Matter protesters in Gilbert, Arizona, has evolved into fistfights, The Arizona Republic reports. Now, another rally is planned for this Thursday.
“Videos posted to social media and shared with The Arizona Republic show pro-police protesters waved flags and yelled about the threat of ‘antifa,’ referencing a loosely organized antifascist ideology that has no clear organization or membership but is often criticized by President Donald Trump,” AZCentral reports. “Several people were also caught on video threatening and punching counterprotesters gathered across the street with little police intervention. Some were heard making homophobic and racist remarks and Nazi salutes during and following the brawl.”
Social media has helped drive rally attendance, according to AZ Central. The publication reported finding various online threats targeting Black Lives Matter supporters, including statements like “Kill them all” and “Hunting season opens early this year boys.”
According to counter-protesters, police were favoring the pro-cop demonstrators, who they say largely instigated the violence.
“They’re propagating this antifa boogeyman,” said BLM protester Emily Hansen. “It’s terrifying.”
BLM organizer Brandon Burkhalter said that the pro-cop faction “came over and came up onto the sidewalk and started yelling and calling names,” such as the N-word and anti-gay slurs. He also said he heard someone say, “Heil Hitler.”
— Screeching Into The Abyss (@owlsabyss) August 23, 2020
The Gilbert Police Department and Gilbert Mayor Scott Anderson released statements Tuesday warning against any future violence.
“We take pride in our police department and the fact that we are the second safest city in the country and we want to keep it that way,” Gilbert Mayor Scott Anderson said. “Although peaceful protests are supported, violence will not be tolerated.”