A Rhode Island police officer running for State Senate was suspended from the Rhode Island Police Department after punching his Democratic female opponent in the face at a protest Friday night. Jennifer Rourke, Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and a pro-choice advocate, alleges she was punched twice by her Republican opponent, Jeann Lugo during a protest against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Rourke shared a video of the incident on Twitter, writing “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.”
I'm a reproductive rights organizer & State Senate candidate. Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent – a police officer – violently attacked me.
This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won't give up.pic.twitter.com/ZREDP2dvXY
— Jennifer Rourke (@JenRourke29) June 25, 2022
Rourke told The Providence Journal: “To me, this feels like an act of political violence similar to the acts of violence that we have seen across the U.S.” Though Lugo claims Rourke became physical with him – an accusation that she denies – he doesn’t deny assaulting his opponent. He told The Journal: “I’m not going to deny. It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast.“
In a protest organized by Jocelyn Foye, director of The Womxn Project, hundreds gathered on the steps of the Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence yesterday. While the event was mostly peaceful, albeit tense, abortion rights advocates shared their concerns with the Supreme Court ruling, its impact on low-income, minority women, and the erosion of privacy rights. Labor and delivery nurse Jackie Anderson told The Journal:
“By taking away Roe v. Wade, they are stripping you of medical privacy. Yes, we still have HIPAA protections, but unfortunately, those can only take us so far. Court orders, subpoenas, discovery — all of those things can override HIPAA, which I don’t think a lot of people understand.”
The altercation between Rourke and Lugo wasn’t the only one of the night. Journalist Bill Bartholomew captured a video showing an unnamed man punching Josh Mello – a man asked to leave the protest after being surrounded by demonstrators.
EXCLUSIVE- video of brawl at State House part 1 pic.twitter.com/fx7Z6msGg5
— Bill Bartholomew (@BillBartholomew) June 25, 2022
Mello, on another occasion, was arrested for causing a disturbance at his daughter’s middle school at which he was wrestled to the ground by two officers. Mello was reportedly carrying multiple knives at the time.
As for Rourke, she says she has pressed charges against Lugo for the assault. He’s been placed on paid administrative leave by the Rhode Island Police Department pending a criminal investigation. With tensions high on both sides of the debate, pro-choice advocates are speaking up – loudly. Anti-choice activists have long used violence and intimidation to subvert a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, expect Pro-choice rights activists to push back. The fight is just beginning.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
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