Trump slams protesters at Phoenix rally, visits border wall in Arizona
By Steve Holland
PHOENIX, Arizona (Reuters) - US President Donald Trump attempted to use national protests in a campaign campaign in the campaigning state of Arizona to his political advantage on Tuesday to prevent "the leftist mob" from pushing the United States into chaos.
Trump, whose first rally of the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attracted fewer followers than expected and was identified as vulnerabilities in his campaign, pushed a law and order issue in Phoenix to a cheering audience of several thousand young people People.
Trump pointed out protesters attempting to overthrow a 19th-century statue of U.S. President Andrew Jackson near the White House and an "autonomous zone" set up by Seattle protesters on Monday evening to keep him in office and not Democrat Joe Biden's election on November 3.
"It is not the behavior of a peaceful political movement. It is the behavior of totalitarians, dictators and people who do not love our country," he said.
In front of the Dream City Church where Trump spoke, the police violently dispersed hundreds of demonstrators marching in an adjacent "free expression zone".
The Phoenix police declared the demonstration an illegal gathering after protesters started blocking a road. Then combat equipment officials used flash grenades - military-style percussion devices to control the crowd - to push protesters far away from the church, a local Reuters photographer said.
The city police said they ordered demonstrators to disperse when the crowd started throwing objects at the police, "blocking traffic and moving to an area that is protected for the presidential column."
In addition to flashes, the police also used "pepper balls in the ground and a burst of pepper spray" against the demonstrators, the department said, adding that no arrests were made.
Trump has been criticized for partnering with autocratic leaders such as Kim Jong Un from North Korea and Vladimir Putin from Russia. He is also under attack by many Americans for treating the protests in response to the death of African American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
On Tuesday, Trump said that those who protested racial injustice and police brutality "hate our history. They hate our values and they hate everything we appreciate as Americans."
"We don't bow to left thugs," he said.
Trump, who narrowly won Arizona in 2016, is trying to defend his position in the state as polls show that Biden is leading the Republican president while Republican U.S. Senator Martha McSally is lagging behind democratic challenger Mark Kelly.
Trump previously visited a newly constructed section of the border wall along the Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona, a dusty, barren landscape where the temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius. With a black sharpie pen he signed a plaque commemorating the 200th mile of the wall.
A campaign pledge to build a wall along the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border helped bring Trump to the White House in 2016.
Trump's third trip to Arizona this year saw a record increase in more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday. The state also had record hospitals, intensive care admissions, and the number of patients with ventilators.
The president and his advisors have largely dismissed concerns about running campaign events as coronavirus transmission continues to grow in parts of the country.
Trump told the audience on Tuesday that the Chinese-born virus is known by many names, including "the kung flu," a description that caught fire as an ethnic arc.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, Ash Ponders and David Schwartz in Phoenix and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; writing by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; editing by Bill Tarrant, Sonya Hepinstall and Lincoln Feast.)
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