Brawls broke out at a protest in Los Angeles in front of a trans-inclusive spa between demonstrators holding religious and homophobic signs and those showing support for transgender rights.
Videos and witnesses at the scene, the luxury Wi Spa located in the Koreatown neighbourhood, showed groups of activists using pipes, fists, and even skateboards to in physical clashes with each other on Saturday.
The Los Angeles Police Department arrived on the scene around noon and declared the demonstration unlawful later that afternoon, telling City News Service that five were injured overall. The underlying controversy that brought both groups to the spa this weekend began last week, when a patron at the business went viral for posting a video where she complains that “a biological male” was in the women’s section, misgendering a trans woman who was allowed in Wi Spa’s female section under the business’ policies.
The video was quickly picked up in conservative media circles, which often equate stories of trans people using bathrooms that match their gender to a perceived and offensive stereotype that trans people put children at risk. (In fact, as The Independent has reported and numerous studies have shown, trans people suffer astronomical rates of sexual assault against them, including frequently by police and jail officers.)
The highly popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson featured a segment about the spa on his show, saying that the complaint where the customer misgenders the trans patron “made my day”.
His guest, the conservative gay commentator Tammy Bruce, also suggested that most “transgenders” don’t want equal access to bathrooms and that the “gay political leadership” has latched onto equal access to facilities as a way to raise money following the legal protection of marriage equality.
Wi Spa has defended its trans-inclusive policies.
“Like many other metropolitan areas, Los Angeles contains a transgender population, some of whom enjoy visiting a spa,” the business said in a statement to Los Angeles Magazine. “Wi Spa strives to meet the needs of all its customers.”Still, conservative groups, including religious demonstrators, converged upon the spa in a ‘anti-pedo’ event on Saturday, in the words of one flier posted by the woman who originally shared the viral complaint video.
Upon learning of the planned demonstration, left-leaning and gay rights groups mobilised in response to the “transphobes” gathering at the spa.
“I think we should let people live their lives, and let trans people live their lives how they want to,” Marie Dumouch, a demonstrator, told CBS LA. Others held signs with messages like “Homo sex is sin”.
Solidarity demonstrations for the trans community are planned for Saturday and Sunday at the nearby MacArthur Park.
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