An off-duty police officer punched a woman twice in the face at a pro-choice protest in Rhode Island on Friday night.
Jeann Lugo, a Providence cop who was running for a state senate seat as a Republican, slugged Jennifer Rourke, an abortion-rights activist who is running for the same seat as a Democrat, outside the Rhode Island State House in Providence.
The protest was organized after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday morning. It was one of many protests throughout the country.
The Providence police department said Saturday that Lugo had been suspended with pay. The department said it launched a criminal investigation into Lugo’s actions. Rourke told The Providence Journal that she was hoping to press charges against Lugo.
Longer video of the incident, shot by a local journalist, showed conservative rabble-rouser Josh Mello filming the crowd. Several people loudly asked him to leave. But one man took matters into his own hands and attacked Mello, punching and shoving him to the ground. No one joined the attack.
With Mello on the ground, Lugo turned around and randomly punched Rourke in the face.
“It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast,” Lugo told the Journal.
Lugo tweeted Saturday that he was ending his political campaign. He then quickly deleted his account. Rourke had a different response.
“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 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.”
Although Rourke and Lugo were running for the same state senate seat, they were not yet direct opponents. Rhode Island’s primary elections aren’t until September. The seat representing Rhode Island Senate District 29 is currently held by Michael McCaffrey, a Democrat.