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Phoenix protesters gear up for 7th day of demonstrations

PHOENIX — Protesters in Phoenix rallied in scorching heat Wednesday, marking a full week of demonstrations over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Hundreds of people stood outside Phoenix City Council chambers downtown holding signs and umbrellas as the temperature hit 108 degrees (42 Celsius) by early afternoon. Protesters were there to call on council members, who are scheduled to meet later in the day, to defund the Phoenix Police Department and divert more money to under-served communities.

The rally was scheduled to be followed by a wider protest later in the afternoon.

Thousands participated in peaceful protests in Phoenix on Tuesday night. It was the second straight night that had no arrests. Police said one crowd marched in the heart of downtown and another gathered at the state Capitol. Most left by the 8 p.m. start time of a statewide curfew ordered by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

That echoes a trend seen nationwide as other cities saw some calm for the first time in days. Authorities credited curfews.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic earlier Tuesday, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams called Floyd’s killing “unbelievably, disgustingly horrific.” Williams, who is black and the department’s first female chief, thinks Floyd’s death could alter how officers everywhere do their jobs.

“The level of voice that we’re seeing now is unlike anything that the world has ever seen, especially in the United States of America,” Williams said.

Phoenix police arrested more than 200 people on Sunday. Numerous people took to social media to criticize police for allegedly hitting them unprovoked with tear gas or rubber bullets.

Williams said those tactics were used after officers “were met with a level of force where people are throwing rocks, bottles, fireworks and things catch things on fire.”

Protests in metro Phoenix have also focused on the May 25 shooting of a 28-year-old black man, Dion Johnson, killed by a state trooper during an encounter on a Phoenix freeway. That shooting is being investigated.

In Flagstaff, more than 1,000 people gathered Tuesday in two areas of the city to protest the police brutality deaths. At one site, protesters used their bodies to shield a police substation from further damage after someone threw either a rock or brick through a window, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. No protesters were arrested, according to police spokesman Charles Hernandez.

Authorities in Scottsdale, meanwhile, made eight additional arrests Wednesday tied to the weekend looting of the upscale Scottsdale Fashion Square mall. The suspects range between ages 17 to 30 and include three Tucson residents. Investigators also recovered $46,000 in stolen merchandise. Scottsdale police have now made 20 arrests in the case.

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