An off-duty Rhode Island police officer assaulted a Black woman candidate for state Senate during a demonstration after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion. Jennifer Rourke, a reproductive justice organizer and candidate for Rhode Island State Senate District 29, was assaulted by an off-duty officer reportedly running for the GOP nomination for the same district at the time.
According to CNN, the officer was charged with “simple assault” and disorderly conduct, identified as 35 –year-old Providence officer Jeann Lugo. He had been on the force for approximately three years. Rourke tweeted that the attack was what it was like to be a Black woman running for office.
“I’m a reproductive rights organizer & State Senate candidate,” wrote Rourke. “Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent – a police officer – violently attacked me.”
Lugo can be seen in a slow-motion video posted to Rourke’s Twitter account, punching her repeatedly. The Providence, Rhode Island Police Department tweeted that the officer involved was placed on administrative leave with pay.
As reported by local outlet the Fall River Reporter, Lugo turned himself in and was arraigned by a justice of the peace. He was released on his own recognizance and scheduled to appear at a hearing on July 8 for re-arraignment. (Read more here).
There are so many questions, but besides yet another example of political violence and racism of the right, it shows the problems with extremism within American law enforcement. A few Twitter users responding to Rourke mentioned that Lugo said he would not be running before deleting his account.
Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos shared a message of support with Rourke.
“Jennifer, I am beyond words that this happened,” began Matos. “Women and women of color running for office are too often harassed and attacked simply for standing up for other women and women of color. We cannot stand for attacks like this. We won’t give up.”
For all the “violence is not the answer” comments that fly around, somehow they never reach violent white men from executing what is possibly racially and politically motivated violence. As Rep. Ayanna Pressley noted in a Tweet, no one should be in fear of physical violence for exercising their right to protest or, more specifically, advocating for abortion.
The mother of four is one of many champions of democracy at the state and local levels running for election or re-election this year. She’s co-founder of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and a recognized leader in the state’s progressive electoral movement. Rourke is also vice-chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus.
Rouke is one of many Black candidates and elected officials at the forefront of responding to the Supreme Court. As previously reported by NewsOne, Black legislators in Michigan and Mississippi are among those loudly proclaiming their opposition to
Maybe this incident can finally put to bed the idea that the south is the only place where violent racists reside.