As protests broke out in Los Angeles Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, abortion-rights activists and reporters covering the demonstrations were shoved, struck with batons, and restricted from documenting the protests freely, according to social media video and firsthand accounts from reporters.
Officers were told to allow reporters to do their jobs “based on the behavior of the individual,” LAPD spokeswoman Capt. Kelly Muniz told the Los Angeles Times. But in one video with over 1.5 million views on Twitter, a cop shoves an independent journalist to the ground as she tries to document an arrest of a protester. After showing the officer her press pass, the cop who pushed her insisted he was trying to protect her.
Last October, after the 2020 protests following George Floyd’s death, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law strengthening the media’s ability to document civil unrest unimpeded. But several examples of LA riot police jabbing their batons into reporters and pushing them to the ground as they marched down the street demanding press members “leave the area” were caught on video and posted to social media over the weekend. One reporter even had a weapon pointed in their face as they tried to film.
“While I'm filming a police vehicle, I look to my left and stare down the barrel of a 40mm riot gun,” reporter Vishal Singh tweeted along with their video of the armed officer. “This is how LAPD responded tonight. With violence.”
In another instance, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times tweeted that officers refused to let him walk down a street where cops were using zip ties to arrest people. Videos of protesters being beaten with batons and shoved by police were also posted on social media and received thousands of views.
Los Angeles wasn’t the only city where local law enforcement responded to demonstrations with force. In Phoenix, cops fired canisters of tear gas at demonstrators from the state senate building Friday, after a handful of protesters gathered at the state capital began banging on the door of the state senate building. Despite the use of force, the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced that no arrests were made.
On Saturday, however, four people were arrested for disorderly conduct and suspicion of rioting after they tore down a fence erected outside the Arizona Capitol, according to AZ Central. Others, including legal observers, were detained by state police, the outlet reported.
In Providence, Rhode Island, Jennifer Rourke, a Democratic candidate for state senate, was punched in the face by her Republican opponent, police officer Jeann Lugo, Friday night. Rourke had been mediating between abortion-rights activists and counterprotesters when a fight broke out between two people, video shows. In the video, Lugo can be seen walking up to Rourke and hitting her in the face several times.
“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office,” she tweeted Saturday. “I won't give up.”
Lugo, who’s a member of the Providence Police Department, dropped out of the state Senate race following the assault. He’s been charged with assault and disorderly conduct and placed on paid administrative leave as police investigate, according to Providence police, and is due in court on July 8.
On Saturday, police in Greenville, North Carolina, shoved and tackled several protesters to the ground, tasing some as other officers kept the gathering crowd at bay. At least six people were arrested, according to local CBS news affiliate WSPA.
Greenville Police told WSPA that they became involved after anti-abortion and abortion-rights protesters confronted one another in the street. Police say they separated the crowds, but a few stragglers refused to disperse. After police arrested one person, several others were detained for interfering, police said.
“These Greenville, SC, police officers ruthlessly and violently handled peaceful protesters — pushing, tackling, and even dragging them on the concrete,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who posted a video of the arrests to Instagram, wrote. “It’s clear that this excessive use of force was unnecessary and unacceptable!”
Not all of the violence documented at protests around the country involved law enforcement. On Friday night, a person drove a truck into a crowd of abortion-rights protesters as they chanted while standing at a crosswalk in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, eyewitnesses told Iowa News Now. One woman said her foot was run over. Witnesses say two of the protesters got into a verbal spat with the driver before the vehicle drove toward them. In video of the moment, protesters can be seen holding onto the vehicle in hopes of slowing it down before it speeds away.
Cedar Rapids Police have not yet identified the driver or made an arrest, according to Iowa News Now.
After months of signaling from the states and even a leaked document preempting its decision, on Friday the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The ruling, which was opposed by the court’s three liberal justices, is poised to affect 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions. Thirteen states, including Mississippi and Utah, already had trigger laws in place that outlaw abortion immediately or within a few weeks of Roe falling. As of Friday, at least eight of those states had started enforcing those laws, according to Guttmacher.