Candidate suspends campaign after being accused of assaulting rival at abortion rally

‘I won’t give up,’ attacked lawmaker declares

<p>State Senate Candidate Jennifer Rourke is punched by off-duty police officer and Republican rival for state Senate, Jeann Lugo at abortion rights rally in Rhode Island, U.S.  June 26, 2022</p>

State Senate Candidate Jennifer Rourke is punched by off-duty police officer and Republican rival for state Senate, Jeann Lugo at abortion rights rally in Rhode Island, U.S. June 26, 2022

A candidate for the state legislature saw his campaign come to an unceremonious end over the weekend after he was accused of physically attacking his opponent.

The incident took place at the Providence, Rhode Island state house on Friday evening, hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning decades of precedent to scrap Roe vs Wade was announced. As supporters of abortion rights grew in front of the state capital, off-duty police officer and Republican state Senate candidate Jeann Lugo joined the crowd.

It’s still not clear exactly what happened next, but his Democratic opponent Jennifer Rourke says Mr Lugo punched her in the face twice after a melee broke out in the crowd, which was all caught on camera. Ms Rourke shared slowed-down video of the incident to her Twitter account, and Mr Lugo has not denied the accusation.

He even told The Providence Journal that he wasn’t sure what had taken place, and couldn’t say that he didn’t strike his opponent.

"I'm not going to deny," he said "It was very chaotic, so I can't really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast."

It wasn’t immediately verifiable whether Mr Lugo’s apparent attack of Ms Rourke was due to disagreement over their views on abortion rights; however, Mr Lugo later claimed to The Washington Post that he stepped in to the scene (despite being off-duty) to supposedly protect someone being harassed by the crowd. It’s not clear why that might require him punching a woman in the face twice.

“I stepped in to protect someone who was attacking a group of agitators,” claimed Mr Lugo. “At this time, an internal investigation is pending, and as the facts of the incident come to light, I request that my family and I have privacy.

“As an officer sworn to protect and serve our communities, I unfortunately found myself in a situation where no individual should be seen.”

He also has confirmed that he won’t be on the ballot in 2022, ending a short bid for Rhode Island’s Democrat-dominated state Senate.

“I will not be running for any office this fall,” Mr Lugo tweeted, before deleting his account.

But Mr Lugo won’t be protecting communities any time soon, given that he is now on administrative leave from the police department he has been a part of since 2019. He’s also now facing criminal charges, including disorderly conduct.

“The Providence Police Department is criminally investigating the behavior of an off duty Providence Police Officer last evening during a protest at the Rhode Island State House where a female subject was assaulted,” a spokesperson for the city told the Post.

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