An abortion rights protest turned chaotic in Rhode Island on Friday, after a state Senate candidate appeared to be hit in the face by her Republican opponent.
“I am a reproductive rights organizer and State Senate candidate. Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent – a police officer – violently attacked me,” said Democratic candidate Jennifer Rourke tweeted on Saturday morning.
The alleged attacker, Jeann Lugo, has been identified by the Providence Police Department as the officer involved.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Rourke said she was a board member of the organization that helped organize Friday’s protest. After giving the speech, she said, she stepped aside and noticed a commotion going on involving a protester, whom she encouraged to leave the premises. (Video of the incident seems to show the protester being suddenly punched by another individual.)
Almost immediately afterward, Rourke said she herself was beaten – apparently by Lugo.
“I just kept saying, ‘He hit me. He hit me,” she recalls. “And he ran away.” She said she had never spoken to the police outside of duty before.
Lugo, whose Twitter account was repeatedly disabled on Saturday, tweeted that he will no longer be “running for any office this fall,” following the incident. Reports said Friday’s protest was generally peaceful.
Providence Police The department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, also tweeted on Saturday that it was “criminally investigating the conduct of a duty officer last night during a protest where a woman was assaulted. hung.” Public employees are entitled to paid administrative leave.
The mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza, speak he can only offer limited comments because of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, but notes that he has “watched the video” and found it “deeply disturbing”.
“Those responsible will have to take full responsibility,” he added.
Lugo could not be immediately reached for comment.
Rourke told The Daily Beast she is suffering from concussion-like symptoms and has contacted Providence police about the pressing allegations. She went to the hospital over the weekend for a CT scan as a precaution, and doctors told her to come back if her symptoms worsened.
“Incidents like this are why many Black and Brown candidates are not running,” she added.
Talking to Providence Magazine reporter Amy Russo on Friday, Lugo is accused Rourke became “close to him” in the moments leading up to the incident. Rourke “flatly” denied that claim, Russo said.
Earlier, on Friday, after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, Lugo tweeted his views that some politicians overreacted to the news by claiming that the decision This is an “attack on democracy.”
“This Supreme Court ruling does not eliminate the possibility of abortion in the United States,” he wrote. “All it does is empower states to decide for themselves, nothing more.”
According to his website, Lugo, 35, spent his teenage years in foster care before starting a career in security. He spent over a decade working for a security company before enrolling at the Providence Police Academy.
Lugo is running on a platform of tax breaks, foster care reform, and an education overhaul. Before deleting his Twitter account, he also retweeted videos of pro-life rallies.
For her part, Rourke has supported Green New Deal proposals in Rhode Island, raising the minimum wage to $19 per hour, free babysitting and other progressive policies.