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Here's what Arizona leaders say about protests in Phoenix

Posted at 7:29 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 14:45:35-04

PHOENIX — Arizona is seeing an emotionally charged situation as the shock and anger of George Floyd's death sinks in.

Arizonans from all races and ages are reacting, trying to make sure their voices and messages are heard. And now, people are looking to leaders to listen, and to respond.

Some leaders across Arizona are speaking out, while others are not.

ABC15 reached out Friday morning to the top leader in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey, for reaction to the overnight protests that left eight people arrested. Governor Ducey did not address the protests until Saturday, saying:

"I want to compliment our law enforcement officers on their professional and valiant work the last two nights in protecting public safety and defusing the situations in downtown Phoenix and Tucson.

"In the state of Arizona, we will always respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. We will not, however, tolerate rioting, looting, violence, destruction of property or any behavior that endangers the safety or rights of other individuals.

"It's important that elected leaders at all levels make this very clear. Here, we will enforce the rule of law. Department of Public Safety Colonel Heston Silbert is coordinating closely with law enforcement leaders across the state to ensure this remains a priority tonight and beyond.

"I've personally reached out this morning to Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to offer the full support of the state and assure them that we've got their backs."

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams was the only one publicly to go in front of cameras on Friday, defending her department.

"Phoenix police officers last night demonstrated patience and above all, kept our community safe," she said.

Williams went on to speak out about the hard-to-watch video of George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

"While I don't know all the circumstances of his death, I've seen the video, I too, like most of the country and other chiefs around the country, are absolutely outraged with what I saw.

The Phoenix Police Department has a history of mistrust with minority communities, so we asked what is she doing to repair her own department's relationships.

Williams said with transparency, like body-worn cameras and releasing videos within 45 days, "trust is that thing we're constantly building, trust is that thing we're trying to make sure is happening, and I do believe it happens with these kind of opportunities, I do believe it happens with us being honest, us being transparent."

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is not going in front of cameras, only releasing a statement saying it's her job to listen. "People are hurt, upset, and angry and they have a right to be."

She went on to say, "I ask residents to continue to look out for one another and recognize that hurt begets hurt."

Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio also released a statement saying, "attacking police and destroying property in Phoenix for something that happened in Minnesota is ludicrous."

Director of Arizona Department of Public Safety Colonel Heston Silbert went to talk with protesters late Thursday night.

"Listen, we understand completely that each of you is upset, each of you cares or you wouldn't be out here," said Colonel Silbert. "It's how things change in the United States of America."

The colonel spent about three minutes of going back and forth with those protesting, even wiping away pepper spray from his eyes, too.

Gilbert Chief of Police Michael Soelberg wrote on social media Friday afternoon that he's deeply concerned about the recent death of George Floyd while in police custody, saying, "incidents such as these deteriorate the trust between communities and law enforcement agencies."