A DAY of noisy but largely peaceful protests at Donald Trump’s speech in Phoenix turned unruly as police fired pepper spray at crowds after rocks were apparently thrown at officers.

A haze enveloped the night sky as protesters and police clashed outside the convention centre where the president had just wrapped up his speech.

People fled the scene coughing as an officer in a helicopter used a speaker to urge protesters to leave the area. Officers responded with pepper spray to break up the crowd after people threw rocks and bottles and dispersed gas, Phoenix police spokesman Jonathan Howard said.

Four people were arrested on charges related to the protest, and one was arrested on an unrelated warrant, Police Chief Jeri Williams said. Two officers were treated for heat exhaustion, she added.

Authorities were on high alert as thousands lined up in powerful heat to attend Trump’s first political rally since the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Protesters filled the streets of central Phoenix and engaged in shouting matches and a few minor scuffles with Trump supporters, but events were generally peaceful.

By the time Trump took the stage, police said there had been no arrests or major incidents.

Police kept most members of the two opposing groups behind barricades and apart on separate sides of the street.

Local authorities were vigilant after deadly protests in Virginia and the president’s comments last week about both sides having blame for violence at the white supremacist rally. Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton had unsuccessfully called on the president to not hold the rally there so soon after the trouble in Charlottesville.

The outdoor temperature remained in the late 30s as the rally began and Phoenix Fire Department, said at least 48 people were treated for heat-related problems, most for dehydration. Two were adult women who were taken to hospital for further evaluation, he said.

Trump opened his rally with calls for unity and an assertion that “our movement is about love” — then he erupted in anger.

He blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to the violence in Charlottesville, and he shouted that he had “openly called for healing, unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and had simply been misrepresented.

He read from his three responses to the racially charged violence — getting more animated with each one.

He withdrew from his suit pocket the written statement he had read the day a woman was killed by a man who had ploughed a car through counter-protesters, but he skipped over the trouble-causing part that he had freelanced at the time — his observation that “many sides” were to blame.

That, as well as his reiteration days later that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer and two state troopers, led Democrats and many Republicans to denounce Trump for not unmistakably calling out white supremacists and other hate groups.

“You know where my heart is,” Trump told the crowd of thousands shoehorned into the Phoenix convention centre.

“I’m only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are.”

As for how he would assist with the upcoming Herculean tasks facing Congress — passing tax reform and agreeing on a budget — he offered little detail.

However, he said if legislators force a government shutdown “we’re building that wall”, a reference to his campaign promise to close off the border with Mexico.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry abruptly cancelled a meeting with White House adviser Jared Kushner yesterday after the Trump administration cut nearly $100 million (£78 million) in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million (£156 million) more in military financing, pending human rights improvements and action to ease harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups.

Egypt’s top diplomat Sameh Shoukry was to meet with the US delegation headed by Kushner, but a modified version of the minister’s schedule showed the meeting had been called off, shortly after the Americans landed in Cairo.

The Egyptian ministry said Egypt regrets the US decision to reduce the aid funds and considered it “a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades, and reflects the lack of understanding of the importance of supporting the stability and success of Egypt”.