Rioting after a monumental Supreme Court abortion ruling caused “significant criminal damage” to the Arizona State Capitol on Friday night, according to authorities.
The mobs of people, who were dispersed by Arizona State Troopers using tear gas, created a “direct threat” to the Senate, which was in session at the time, and prompted occupants of the building to seek cover, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said Saturday. The rioters branched off from a group of an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people who descended upon the complex in Phoenix to protest over the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the nearly 50-year nationwide right to an abortion.
“What began as a peaceful protest evolved into anarchical and criminal actions by masses of splinter groups. As groups realized the state legislature was in session, they attempted to breach the doors of the Arizona Senate and force their way into the building,” DPS said in a statement. “The violence of their efforts literally shook the building and terrified citizens and lawmakers who occupied the building. As the glass doors bowed from attempts of forced entry, the occupants of the building were instructed to move to secure locations.”
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Videos posted to social media showed scenes from those hectic moments. Among them was a video showing the moment that the Senate, which was in session, was cleared by President Karen Fann, citing a “security situation.” Individual lawmakers shared their accounts of those chaotic moments, and some made comparisons to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the investigations that followed.
“We are currently there being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public trying to breach our security. We smell teargas and the children of one of the members are in the office sobbing with fear. I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately,” tweeted state Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-AZ).
Arizona State Troopers “took immediate action and utilized tactics including the deployment of field force teams and tear gas” because of the “direct threat to the occupants of the Senate building and damage to the building itself,” DPS said. “As the riotous behavior at the Legislature was taking place, concurrent and spillover criminal misconduct in the form of felony criminal damage and the defacing of state memorials was occurring in Wesley Bolin Plaza.”
The statement from DPS shared a list and images of the damaged memorials and properties. Among them were the Wesley Bolin Memorial Amphitheatre, the 158th Regimental Memorial, the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Memorial, the Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial, and the Lt. Frank Luke Jr. Memorial.
“Troopers exercised patience and application of tactics in Wesley Bolin Plaza as some people unwisely brought children to the protest turned unlawful assembly,” DPS said. “After multiple warnings, and notifications of trespass and unlawful assembly, state troopers deployed gas and strategically moved to clear the plaza. After the plaza was cleared, additional state buildings in the area sustained criminal damage.”
No arrests were made at the State Capitol on Friday night, according to a 12 News reporter, citing a DPS spokesman. However, the DPS statement on Saturday said the “incident status” remains active.
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Demonstrators rallied outside the Supreme Court and around the country since the 5-4 ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe, returning the fight over abortion rights to the states.
Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) signed a bill into law in March banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the new 15-week ban would go into effect in about 90 days.