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Police Spent the Weekend Brutalizing Abortion Rights Protesters

The violence we witnessed was terrifying, but not surprising—it's part of the post-Roe reality that cops will be the ones enforcing abortion bans.

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Capitol Police dressed in riot gear watch as activists react to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 in Washington, DC.
Capitol Police dressed in riot gear watch as activists react to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Over the weekend, abortion rights supporters across the country gathered in their respective cities to protest the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. They weren’t alone: Police also showed up in full force from Los Angeles, California, to Providence, Rhode Island—and most notably, they marched heavily armed and in full riot gear to the Supreme Court, almost immediately after the decision dropped.

In several documented cases across the country, police confronted protesters with physical violence, shoving protesters and journalists to the ground, tasing people, and, in Arizona, even throwing tear gas into crowds. In contrast, as Jezebel has previously reported, police have often enabled or even joined anti-abortion protesters outside clinics. Anti-abortion activists have spent the last several decades assassinating providers, stalking abortion patients, and burning clinics to the ground.

In Greenville, South Carolina, police officers met abortion rights protesters with violence and tasers on Saturday. Greenville News reports that the city is now investigating officers’ use of force at the protest—but based on a statement from a Greenville city spokesperson claiming officers didn’t tase protesters and instead used a “warning arc,” it already sounds like the city is prepared to do nothing.

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On Friday evening, Arizona’s legislature—which could soon revive a pre-Roe abortion ban, and recently enacted a 15-week ban—had to cancel its session after the building became surrounded by protesters. The mass of protesters dispersed when Phoenix police officers threw tear gas into the crowd—despite how tear gas is a known abortifacient that can induce pregnancy loss.

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In other words, it’s now illegal in at least 10 states for pregnant people to have abortions but remains perfectly legal for officers to spray abortifacients into crowds. As we’ve already seen in cases when a pregnant person has faced criminal charges for losing a pregnancy after being attacked, it’s clear that protesters who potentially miscarry—rather than cops—will shoulder the legal consequences of this.

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Just last year, Planned Parenthood highlighted the harmful impacts of tear gas on pregnancy. The organization criticized the “stark inequity in when weapons like tear gas are used”—tear gas is disproportionately deployed against protesters of color, building upon this country’s “long history of reproductive violence towards Black and brown communities.”

And in one of the most jarring cases of police violence this weekend, police officers appeared to shove Full House actor Jodie Sweetin to the ground as she was trying to lead protesters away from the Los Angeles highway. In a statement to People regarding the incident, Sweetin said police violence “will not deter us,” and that “we will continue fighting for our rights.”

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LAPD officers were also caught harming other unarmed protesters, notably brutalizing and shoving several women to the ground off a freeway ramp on Saturday:

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At least three journalists reporting on the protests were also assaulted by the LAPD, footage posted to social media shows. One particularly alarming video shows several officers shoving a female journalist to the ground despite her identification as a member of the press:

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The LAPD has said it’s investigating the incident involving Sweetin but hasn’t addressed other documented acts of police violence.

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In Providence, Rhode Island, an off-duty police officer alleged to be Jeann Lugo—a Republican state Senate candidate—was seen at an abortion protest punching his Democratic, pro-abortion rival, Jennifer Rourke. “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up,” Rourke wrote in a tweet sharing video of the incident Friday night. Lugo has since been suspended by the Providence Police Department and dropped out of the Senate race.

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The acts of police violence we witnessed this weekend were alarming, but not surprising—they’re part of the post-Roe reality that police officers will be the ones to enforce abortion bans, and criminalize offenders. Police violence toward protesters ultimately builds upon law enforcement’s documented history of attacking reproductive rights through surveilling and jailing people for abortions pre-Roe, and arresting disproportionately people of color for their pregnancy outcomes in recent years. Without federally guaranteed abortion rights, all of that is about to get worse.