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We wore anti-Nazi "45" shirts. We were turned away from the doors of the convention center for our shirts. The guy said, "we have the right to refuse anybody from entering the rally," but we also heard him say, "yeah, not with those shirts."
No one was planning any violence; we literally just wanted to stand in the back and listen to what our president had to say to the citizens of Phoenix, which included us as well.
We grabbed our signs and stood outside of the Herberger Theater, where most of the protesters were. We chanted the typical, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Donald Trump has got to go!" and "Ain't no power like the power of the people, 'cause the power of the people don't stop!"
It was a peaceful protest with chants, songs, hugs, and funny signs.
At this point though, it was dark, it was hot, and everyone was waiting for the Trump supporters to exit the convention center. Someone noticed the rally-goers were being redirected, so they wouldn't see the protesters, and we decided to move towards the new exit.
The police were dressed in their riot gear all day, and honestly, it was messed up, but we weren't anticipating anything bad to happen since we always have peaceful protests in Phoenix. (Maybe that's why we're hardly on the news.)
Anyway, the police saw we were moving collectively and decided to bring out the guns.
Boos from the protesters ensued with people yelling that no one was doing anything and that this was a peaceful protest.
Someone threw a water bottle.
A cop shot at the crowd on our side with rubber bullets, multiple times, that exploded into pepper spray.
Another two water bottles, this time, with protesters yelling at the other protesters that this was a peaceful protest and to "stop throwing shit!" After that, more police shot at the crowd in general with more of the pepper bullets and they threw tear gas and they shot flash grenades.
Like I said, we usually have peaceful protests in Phoenix, so we didn't know if people actually brought small bombs or if the police decided to bring some. All we know was that our eyes started burning and we couldn't stop coughing and there were loud explosion sounds near us.
We went from singing as a group to fleeing for our lives as a group.
I heard the initial flash grenade and started inching my way backward. I heard another two and started walking faster. Once the tear gas and bullets reached us, we started running, but we had lost one of our own in the crowd.
We went back for her and ducked through the line of fire all while screaming for our friend. The gas was so thick and it made it impossible to see the police or even the buildings around us.
I made eye contact with a police officer who was shooting people. He aimed for me and shot, but it hit the girl next to me. The bullet exploded into pepper and both me and the girl got instantly blinded. I instinctively clutched at my eyes and kept my hands there (which is not the right move, by the way). I kept yelling for my friend, but people kept pulling us away from the direction of the cops.
We just hoped our friend was safe somewhere and we ran away. There was a tall barricade we had to go over and being blind, I couldn't see and I was holding a sign. I threw it over and a man who was helping people over the barricade, also helped me over and people were pulling me away, but I grabbed my sign. (I lowkey worked hard on it.)
I tried keeping my eyes open but they stung so bad, it felt like pineapple juice being poured into an open wound. I heard someone ask if I needed water for the gas and I couldn't speak without choking, so I just nodded vigorously. I got handed a water bottle and people started flocking to me like crazy asking if I was okay, to which I could only shake my head.
I was crying, I was choking, I was shaking, I was terrified. I grabbed my eyes and yelled through gritted teeth. A nice girl sat in front of me and she started pouring water on my face and trying to calm me down while a bright light shined in front of me. A guy was filming me choking and crying and yelling. Another guy on my left was saying he was going to spray something in my eyes to counteract the pepper spray I had in them.
He sprayed me and it felt like I had been burned, so I just yelled. Honestly, I thought he sprayed me with something worse, until he said that he knows that it hurts, but that it's flushing out the pepper. He said he had to hit me with it again, and apparently, my face was red and swollen that whole time, and I didn't realize it, which is why he pried my eyes open and sprayed me again. It didn't hurt as much that time, but I had never felt my eyes tear up so much in that small amount of time. They water just thinking about it, now. It still stung, but I could open my eyes afterward and my face wasn't as swollen.
He handed me a small towel that he sprayed with his chemical and said to breathe through it since there was so much gas in the air and so much in my lungs from the bullet.
I could barely talk, but I thanked them both through tears and they gave me more water.
My friends helped me up and we started running again because the gas cloud was getting bigger and reaching us. My friend took my sign and my hand, and led my blind and choking ass down the street where my friends were running.
People yelled, asking if I was okay, with me just choking into my towel and tearing up as I ran past them. There were loud explosion sounds, popping, shooting, yelling, chanting, coughing, the smell of gas and pepper flooded the air. I honestly have never feared for my life this much.
We reached our missing friend and I sat down, rinsing my face and eyes with water and dampening my towel. We had to leave. Our car was back near the convention center, where the police, in their riot gear, marched slowly down the street holding their shields up, protecting themselves from water bottles and returned gas bombs they originally threw at the crowd.
We ended up asking some nice cops for directions around the chaos to reach our car.
Along the way, Trump supporters that were leaving the Convention Center laughed, stared, scoffed, and shouted obscenities at us, and saying that I deserved it.
We weren't rioters. We were protesting and the cops thought water bottles deserved to be answered with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades.
When we reached our car, I had felt better, but my head throbbed, my heart pounded, and my eyes stung. Even now, hours later, I feel horrible.
Did the police treat the white supremacists who were armed and held torches the same? No. Stop shooting us.
Stop spraying us with gas.
Stop treating us like rioters.
Start looking at our president and hold him accountable.
#Resist and trust in #OurRevolution.
Remember to follow me on Instagram @salatkiel & on Facebook.com/ClarksPictures.