A Scottsdale Police Department parking lot became the arena for a dust-up today between pro-police and anti-police brutality demonstrators.
We're talking shoving, shouting, bullhorns, goose-stepping, leather-wearing cop-biker club members, plus the police chief, mayor and professor-busting college Officer Stewart Ferrin, all within a few feet of each other.
See our photo, videos and more details below.
The pro-police event was organized by Nohl Rosen, founder of Cat Galaxy web radio and member of "Rally for L.E.," a pro-police group that began in Phoenix about a month ago.
Promoted on social media by Rosen, cop supporters, cop critics and others, the 10 a.m. "Rally for Law Enforcement," an interesting face-off was all but assured. Representatives of the various sides didn't disappointment. At the same time, no punches were thrown or guns drawn. This was boots-on-the-ground democracy.
Rosen, carrying a flag and wearing a flag-inspired doo-rag, told us that he organized the event after watching a news report last week about graffiti at a Scottsdale park that read, "cops kill so kill cops." (He later told us the event was actually organized last month.)
"It was despicable," Rosen said of the graffiti. "You can tell by the people that showed up -- they support the police. And I'm one of them."
We pointed toward a woman holding a sign that said "Illegals Kill Officers," and asked him if that was part of his group's message.
"No, I think she took it out as a joke," he said.
"Put that sign away!" he yelled at her, but then quickly added, "actually, it's true."
"I don't joke about this," the woman snapped. "I don't joke about people being killed."
She declined to give her name.
The larger, pro-police side included an assortment of sign-holding seniors sitting on lawn chairs, members of the Blue Knights police-only motorcycle club, a woman in the back of a pickup truck with a bullhorn (we never got her name), guys standing around with arms crossed, average-looking citizens just there to observe. Several police officers were on hand for crowd control, it seemed, but Police Chief Alan Rodbell hung out for the whole event. He was joined by elected officials including Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp. They took the east side of the lot while their opponents, arriving in timely fashion, took the west side.
"This is not a confrontational issue at all," Mayor Lane told New Times, explaining that no one should support any activist group that calls for harming police officers.
He pointed to examples including the recent graffiti and "frankly, the activists who have called for killing cops."
Lane didn't name any specific activists.
Rodbell, who denied having anything to do with the event, told us he believes the community respects and supports the city's police force.
"This is clearly a grassroots effort," he said of the organized event. "We're flattered people want to come out on a Saturday and support us."
The chief since 2002, Rodbell said that the Scottsdale Police Department allows the public to learn more about how the agency operates through its web site and citizens police academy. (Rosen said he's a graduate of the latter.)
"Even if we mess up ... we have that commitment where we let the public know what's going on," Rodbell said.
We also talked to a few of the police protesters. One of the men, wearing a Soviet-inspired uniform with a red cap, told us his name was Felix Dzerzhinsky, (a Soviet revolutionary figure). He said he didn't come to represent a group, but learned about the event from the Internet. As obvious sarcasm, he and another uniformed protester goose-stepped through the lot a couple of times.
Other protesters declined to give their names. One guy held a sign that mentioned retired Scottsdale officer James Peters, who left the force after shooting and killing six people (and wounding a seventh) during his 12 years on the force. We asked the protester if he considers any of Peters' shootings, which were all cleared by his department, to have been justified.
"Not in my opinion," he said.
As we made the rounds, the atmosphere was mostly friendly -- at first. But with extremists on both sides -- and, it turned out, with bullies on the pro-cop side -- the confrontation soon grew heated.
We noticed a woman with a "Fuck Police Brutality" T-shirt being lectured by an older man. Members of the pro side were getting too close to the antis. As can be seen from our video, a shouting match began between freelance videographer and activist Dennis Gilman, (New Times occasionally posts his videos or photos) and the blonde woman in the pickup.
Our take on the video: Gilman, holding his trusty camcorder, is accosted by a man who uses his "Hand Up - Comply" sign to block Gilman's shot. A left-wing, outspoken critic of police, Gilman soon finds himself in a dust-up with a couple of bigger men on the pro-police side, who use their their larger size to try and push him around. He's not one to back down, though -- he jabs out and and crinkles one of police supporter's signs.
You can form your opinion about how it all went down. (See Gilman's Facebook site for his own take, plus video.) No one was arrested, as far as we know, and civility soon returned to the rally. Sort of. There was another 45 minutes or so of lively debating among the activists, news media, cops and elected officials.
Oh --- and ASU Officer Ferrin. He didn't say much, on the advice of his attorney, former Arizona U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald. We posted his public comments in a second video above. ASU's reportedly firing the white officer, following the maelstrom created by dash-cam video of his take-down and arrest of Ersula Ore, a black professor he'd stopped for jaywalking. He was joined at the event by his father, retired Tempe cop John Ferrin, and his mother, Ellen.
"Me and my family thank you ... for the support you've given us," Ferrin told the pro-police crowd on the video below. "We are appreciative of all the work and the support you guys are doing to help us, to help law enforcement in general."
"Give Dr. Ore her money!" some smart-aleck in the crowd yelled.
Rosen then told him to "stay strong" -- and called the protesters "cowards."
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Not the healthiest of discourses. But everyone seemed to get their points across.
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