Providence officer Jeann Lugo, GOP candidate, punches a Democratic opponent during an abortion protest

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A Providence police officer who was running for public office as a Republican dropped out of the race Saturday amid a criminal investigation for allegedly punching his Democratic opponent in the face during an abortion protest.

Rhode Island Political Cooperative President Jennifer Rourke was among those who spoke at a Friday night protest outside the State House following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end the right to abortion. As tensions rose between protesters and counter-protesters, Rourke, who is running as a Democrat for a state Senate seat in Warwick, RI, found herself not far from her Republican opponent, Jeann Lugo, a Providence policeman who was off duty.

Video posted on social media shows people exchanging punches in a chaotic scene. During the fights, a man who Rourke claims is Lugo punches her in the face.

“Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent – ​​a police officer – viciously attacked me,” Rourke wrote on Twitter. “That’s what it’s like to be a black woman running for office. I will not give up.

Lugo, a three-year veteran of the department, was placed on administrative leave and is now the subject of a criminal investigation, Rhode Island Public Safety spokeswoman Lindsay Logue told The Washington Post. Rourke told the Providence Journal that she was seeking to file assault charges.

“The Providence Police Department is criminally investigating the behavior of an off-duty Providence police officer last night during a protest at the Rhode Island State House where a woman was assaulted,” said Logue said in a statement.

As video of the incident went viral on Saturday, Lugo announcement that he was suspending his campaign for the State Senate.

“I will not be running for any position this fall,” he tweeted.

Lugo appeared to shut down his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.

Rourke did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Before Lugo announced he was dropping out of the race, he told the Post that as an officer he found himself “in a situation that no individual should see themselves in.”

“I stepped in to protect someone who was being attacked by a group of agitators,” he wrote in an email. “At this time, there is an internal investigation underway, and as the facts of the incident come to light, I ask that my family and I have privacy. »

The incident came as Washington and cities coast to coast braced for a second day of huge street protests on Saturday after the decision was met with an outpouring of joy and rage on Friday. evening. The protests that began on Friday were largely peaceful, although tensions at some protests escalated in some places.

Abortion Protests Continue After Supreme Court Ends Roe v. Wade

In Phoenix, police fired tear gas at abortion rights supporters protesting outside the Arizona Capitol, video showed. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said protesters were banging on the windows of the state Senate, with some attempting to break the glass. While the protest was mostly peaceful, police ruled the gathering an unlawful assembly, according to the Arizona Republic.

Police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are investigating a Friday night incident in which a pickup truck began driving toward protesters and struck a woman.

As protesters crossed the street in downtown Cedar Rapids, a verbal confrontation ensued between a protester and the driver of a Ford truck, police said. Video showed protesters were in front of the truck when the vehicle accelerated and hit a protester. The vehicle then fled.

Authorities said it was unclear if the act was intentional, but protesters told KCRG the driver ran a red light and approached a group of people. No criminal charges had been filed Saturday. The stricken person was taken to hospital for evaluation, KCRG reported.

After the Supreme Court’s decision was announced, Rourke, a women’s reproductive rights organizer, wrote on Facebook that she would be speaking out at a protest outside the State House in Providence along with other angry people and crushed by the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

“We cannot sit back and watch time reverse our rights,” she wrote on Friday. “So tonight you will join us at 8:00 p.m. [State] House to stand together and show that we won’t be defeated? »

A video posted by journalist Bill Bartholomew shows proponents and opponents of abortion rights arguing outside the State House on Friday night. Rourke appears to be trying to defuse the tense situation, the video shows.

But as a counter-protester walks away, a fight breaks out among the group, according to the video.

Rourke posted a clip of Bartholomew’s slow-motion video to social media that shows her getting punched in the face. She told the Journal that she had been punched at least twice by Lugo.

Lugo did not deny hitting Rourke at the Journal. He said Rourke got physical with him, which she denied.

“To me, this looks like an act of political violence similar to the acts of violence we’ve seen across the United States,” Rourke told the outlet.

Lugo has faced criticism from local leaders, including Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza (D). Elorza noted in a statement that he was limited in what he could say publicly due to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which offers protections to police officers when they face scrutiny. disciplinary.

“Having said that, I’ve seen the video and it’s extremely disturbing,” Elorza said. “Those responsible will be held fully accountable. »

Less than 24 hours after the abortion protest incident, Rourke expressed disappointment to the Boston Globe that the violence she has seen plague other past protests has occurred in Providence.

“It’s frustrating when you try to have something peaceful and it turns into something like this,” she said. “I’ve seen things happen across the country, and I never thought it would happen here or to me. »

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