RI state senate candidate arrested, drops out of race after ‘punching’ female Dem rival at abortion rally

Emotions stirred by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade led to an incident that has cost an aspiring GOP state senate candidate in Rhode Island his shot at public office and perhaps his job after he physically assaulted his female rival at an abortion rights rally.

Jeann Lugo who is also a police officer and was off-duty at the time, was placed on administrative leave by the Providence Police Department after his Democrat opponent Jennifer Rourke posted video of the attack which occurred during a Friday night protest outside of the Rhode Island State House in Providence.

Rourke – who is black – also put a racial spin on the incident, “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,” she wrote. “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.”

The Providence Police Department posted a statement on Twitter that the officer had been suspended pending a criminal investigation.

“The PPD is criminally investigating the behavior of an off duty officer last evening during a protest where a female was assaulted. The officer has served for 3 yrs and placed on administrative leave w/pay this morning, pending a criminal investigation and administrative review,” the statement read.

The PPD later confirmed that the officer involved was Lugo.

Lugo, who was arrested and faces charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct, announced that “I will not be running for any office this fall,” on Twitter before deactivating his account.

Rourke who serves as chairwoman for the Rhode Island Political Cooperative told the Associated Press that she was in the process of trying to escort a counter-protester off the premises when an altercation broke out, she was then struck multiple times in the face by Lugo.

“I’m disappointed he chose to use violence in this way. As a police officer, he’s trained to deescalate. He did not do what he was trained to do,” she said, stating that two opponents in the state  Senate District 29 race had never interacted and she didn’t know that he would be present at the protest.

“To me, this feels like an act of political violence similar to the acts of violence that we have seen across the U.S.,” Rourke told the Providence Journal. “I’m a Black woman running for office. There was no need, no need for any of this. I’m not going to give up.”

“Rourke sought medical care and received a CT scan on Saturday afternoon. She said she was doing OK but was experiencing a lot of tenderness in her face and ringing in her ears,” AP reported.

In remarks to the Providence Journal, Lugo claimed that Rourke became “physical with him” which she had denied, but he declined to say that he didn’t punch her.

“I’m not going to deny,” he said. “It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast.”

The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus condemned that attack on Rourke and leapt at the opportunity to portray the actions of Lugo to smear all pro-life Americans.

“Our Vice Chair, @JenRourke29, was physically attacked by her Republican opponent at last night’s rally for abortion rights. We unequivocally stand by Jen and condemn the violent, racist, misogynistic extremism that emboldened this individual—a police officer!—to assault Jen,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said that he was unable to offer an in-depth response due to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

“Unfortunately, I am limited in what I can say publicly due to LEOBOR,” Elorza said. “With that said, I’ve seen the video and it’s immensely disturbing. Those responsible will be held fully accountable,” the wrote on Twitter.

The Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee demanded the repeal of LEOBOR as well as Lugo’s resignation from the police force.

“Without intervention, this will set a dangerous precedent for off-duty officers to be able to assault citizens as they please with little to no accountability,” the group said. “This is not the first instance of police misconduct enabled by state leadership’s lack of action on the matter of policing reform.”

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