By 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, the crowds outside the Phoenix Convention Center had mostly dispersed, the air smelled like tear gas, and empty water bottles littered the sidewalk. It was still well over 90 degrees outside, and the sidewalks were radiating heat.
But not everyone was ready to head home. "Let's take shots!" one of the Trump supporters yelled. The group began to wander down Monroe Street, where a number of Make America Great Again hats could be spotted under the misters outside Seamus McCaffrey's. Across the street, at Cornish Pasty, antifa in ripped jeans and bandanas ordered tequila shots while passing around milk of magnesia.
It seemed like just about everything else downtown had closed — a sign posted the doors at Kettle Black read, "Closed for Security Reasons," and someone had added, in red Sharpie, "Thanks Donald!"
Shortly afterward, a scratched-up gray Ford truck full of Trump supporters came very close to running over a group of protesters.
According to the New York Times , the driver of the truck had performed a Nazi salute aimed in the general direction of the protesters. Not surprisingly, that didn't go over too well.
Ugly scene in downtown Phoenix. Watch til the end pic.twitter.com/K516TbufIw— Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero) August 23, 2017
"The man had been driving around all evening yelling racist things and Sieg Heil-ing," Paulina Rios, one of the protesters who witnessed the incident, tells Phoenix New Times. "He was looking for fights or trying to instigate them."
You can witness the ensuing chaos for yourself in the video that Simon Romero, a national correspondent for the New York Times, posted on Twitter. Basically, it consists of a lot of people yelling at each other and coming very close to getting into actual physical fights. The driver of the truck, in particular, has to be restrained by one of his passengers.
Just as the Trump supporters are piling back into the truck bed and starting to drive forward, a protester clutching an "I Heart My Muslim Neighbor" sign runs up and punches one of them in the face. The truck rounds the corner and heads up Central Avenue, chased by protesters, then abruptly stops and backs up with a loud screech, narrowly missing hitting several people. The driver then speeds off down Central Avenue.
Video of protester punching man in pickup truck & driver then throwing the car back in reverse for a good 15 feet before attempting u-turn. pic.twitter.com/vdlnkqXskt— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) August 23, 2017
Fortunately, no one was hurt. The driver, who has not yet been identified, got about one block away before being stopped by Phoenix police officers outside the Westin. Shortly afterward, he was escorted away by police, Rios says.
Phoenix Police spokesman Jonathan Howard confirmed that the driver had not been one of the four people who were arrested Tuesday night after the Trump rally.
"I have not personally seen the video but was told it appears to be a heated verbal exchange followed by people trying to leave the scene," Howard wrote in an email to Phoenix New Times."No one stayed around to report otherwise."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Rios disagrees with the claim that the driver had been trying to leave the scene.
"He pulled forward and then backed up, so it was done intentionally," she points out, adding that shortly after apprehending the driver, police began pepper-spraying protesters again.
"There were a lot of Trump supporters trying to start fights," she says. "One man tried to fight a teenage girl. I saw Trump supporters egging protesters, I got spit on. ... It was really ridiculous that they said we were the violent ones."