Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been gathering at abortion rights protests across the country. While the majority of these have been thankfully peaceful, activists and supporters are concerned about a growing number of violent incidents.
Pro-choice marches have been targeted by conservative extremists, and worryingly, have faced police brutality. Police violence at abortion rights protests echoes the vicious police actions at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Police crack downs on peaceful protests have been reported in multiple states, with officers wielding batons and forcefully moving activists from public spaces. In Phoenix, Arizona, police fired tear gas into protestors from inside the State Capitol building. They later claimed in a statement they were concerned protestors would gain access to the building.
Also in Phoenix, state troopers detained a news photographer and people who identified themselves as National Lawyers Guild legal observers. Arrests and brutalisation of press and legal observers have been recorded at several protests.
Sam Braslow, of Beverly Hills Courier tweeted footage of police firing ‘less lethal’ bullets at point-blank range into protesters, and using batons to knock a National Lawyers Guild observer to the street.
Guild President Suzanne Adley stated “both the Dobbs decision and state repression of protest against it violates human rights. Targeting legal observers, who serve as trained witnesses of police conduct, is an act of state repression that shows dangerous police entitlement to unchecked power and violence”.
In South Carolina, a video shows a police officer threatening a woman with a taser and throwing an elderly man to the ground. Six protesters were arrested after a violent clash with police.
In Los Angeles, Braslow and his colleague Tina Desiree Berg were both manhandled and pushed to the ground by police, despite wearing press badges. Also in LA, Full House actor Jodie Sweetin was surrounded and pushed to the ground by police officers.
Protesters have also faced violence at the hands of pro-life extremists. In Iowa, a pickup truck ploughed into a march, injuring several protesters and hospitalising a woman. Iowa passed legislation recently making it legal for drivers to hit protesters with their vehicles, depending on circumstance.
Police officer and Republican Rhode Island Senate candidate Jeann Lugo will suspend his campaign after video footage emerged of him punching one of his Democratic opponents in the face at a protest outside the State House last week.
A pro-choice activist in LA was stabbed in the arm after attending a march last week. Vishal P. Singh, who reported on the incident on twitter, suggested an unconfirmed link to neo-Nazis.
“Whoever these people are they’re coming for us,” said the victim of the attack, “The stabber specifically named [sic] dropped me along with other comrades”.
Neo-Nazi organisations like Aryan Nations and the Traditionalist Worker party have had a long-standing association with the anti-abortion movement. The neo-Nazi organisation Patriot Front appeared at the March for Life in 2021 and 2022.
“Lots of our people join [anti-choice organizations],” said Tim Bishop of Aryan Nations. “It’s part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race.”
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