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Cop Drops Out of Rhode Island Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally

·4-min read
Cop Drops Out of Rhode Island Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally

Providence Police Department is investigating one of their officers after he allegedly assaulted a woman at an abortion rally while he was off-duty on Friday.

A video from the event appears to show a man hitting Jennifer Rourke, the Rhode Island State Senate opponent of Jeann Lugo. Lugo was arraigned on assault and disorderly conduct charges Saturday and released on his own recognizance, the Providence Journal reported.

"I was de-escalating the situation and the counter protester was leaving when my Republican opponent Jeann Lugo punched me multiple times in the face," Rourke said in a statement to PEOPLE. Rourke's rep said she pressed charges with the state and PPD.

RELATED: Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Eliminating the Constitutional Right to Abortion

It's unclear whether Lugo has secured legal representation. Lugo did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

He announced on Saturday that he was dropping out of the Senate race. "I will not be running for any office this fall," Lugo posted on Twitter, shortly before deactivating his account.

Jennifer Rourke. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally . https://twitter.com/JenRourke29. ; Jeann Lugo. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally https://www.facebook.com/JeanncLugo.
Jennifer Rourke. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally . https://twitter.com/JenRourke29. ; Jeann Lugo. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally https://www.facebook.com/JeanncLugo.

Jennifer Rourke/Twitter; Jeann Lugo/Facebook

Rourke, a Democrat, previously shared the video, which is dark and blurry, but shows a physical altercation unfolding.

"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 with the clip. "This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won't give up."

PPD has since suspended Lugo with pay and launched an internal investigation. "The officer has served for 3 yrs and placed on administrative leave w/ pay this morning, pending a criminal investigation and administrative review," they shared in a statement before confirming the identity of the officer.

Lugo did not deny the claims, according to the Boston Globe. "As an officer that swore to protect and serve our communities, I, unfortunately, saw myself in a situation that no individual should see themselves in," Lugo reportedly told the publication in a statement. "I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking."

Jennifer Rourke. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally . https://twitter.com/JenRourke29.
Jennifer Rourke. Providence Cop Drops Out of Senate Race After Opponent Says She Was Attacked at Abortion Rally . https://twitter.com/JenRourke29.

Jennifer Rourke/Twitter

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza also commented on the alleged assault, noting that he can't share much information due to the state's Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.

"I've seen the video and it's immensely disturbing. Those responsible will be held fully accountable," Elorza wrote on Twitter.

Rourke continued in her statement to PEOPLE: "Political violence like this is exactly why people like me often don't run for office. Working-class candidates and Black and Brown candidates face violence and threats all across the country.

"We need to break down those barriers which is why I co-founded the Rhode Island Political Cooperative which helps people like me – working-class candidates and candidates of color – run for office by providing them all the services they need to run and win.

"In the Co-op, I'm running alongside nurses, teachers, social workers, and other progressive candidates who like me work two, sometimes three jobs while running for office. They helped get me out of the situation at the rally last night and they have supported me through this like a family. I wish everyone running for office could have this kind of support system," Rourke added.

Friday's rally came hours after the Supreme Court's 6-to-3 ruling to overturn 1973's Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion. The decision reverses nearly 50 years of precedent and gives states the power to pass their own laws around abortion.

Since the ruling, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and South Dakota have already banned abortion in their states, after putting "trigger bans" in place that governors enacted after the SCOTUS ruling.

RELATED VIDEO: Woman Whose Conception Sparked Roe v. Wade Case Breaks Silence: 'I'm Keeping a Secret but I Hate It'

Protests have since erupted around the country, and President Joe Biden has spoken out against the ruling, which he called the "realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court."

The decision comes after the SCOTUS opinion was leaked to Politico last month. A poll conducted by CNN has since found that 66 percent of Americans did not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

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