Officer Suspended for Off-Duty Actions at Abortion Protest

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while he was off-duty was suspended from his job with pay Saturday while the Providence Police Department conducts a criminal investigation into his actions.

Jennifer Rourke was the Rhode Island Political Cooperative Chairwoman, and she is a candidate for the Rhode Island Senate. She told the Providence Journal Jeann Lugo punched her twice in the face, who also happened to be her opponent in the race for the State Senate.

Lugo told the Journal on he was “not going to deny” the punching allegation, but added that “everything happened very fast.”

“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,” he said in the email to the Boston Globe. ”I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”

Lugo didn’t immediately reply to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

Two other people are seen in video at the event, and they appear to be involved in a physical fight right before Rourke (or Rourke) is struck. Video does not reveal what actually happened between Rourke, Lugo, and Rourke before Rourke’s hit.

“I’m a Black woman running for office,” Rourke told the Journal. “There was no need, no need for any of this. I’m not going to give up.”

Jorge Elorza, Providence Mayor, addressed the conflict via Twitter but stated that he had limited information.

“I’ve seen the video and it’s immensely disturbing,” Elorza said. “Those responsible will be held fully accountable.”

Lugo announced that he was withdrawing from the race at noon Saturday.

“I will not be running for any office this fall,” he said.

Providence police announced the suspension in a news release. They stated that the suspending officer is a three year veteran.

This altercation took place during Friday’s protest at the Rhode Island State House in Providence. It was in reaction to Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision which granted a constitutional right for abortion) being overturned.

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