DPS uses tear gas to disperse pro-choice protesters at Arizona Capitol
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A protest involving thousands of people in support of abortion rights at the Arizona Capitol came to an end when Department of Public Safety troopers used tear gas to scatter the crowd on Friday night. At around 8:45 p.m., protesters were banging on the windows of the Arizona Senate and trying to break the glass, DPS said. In a video tweeted out by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, banging could be heard as hundreds of people were outside of the building. Somebody is seen kicking the locked doors into the building from the outside. That’s when tear gas was deployed and the crowd dispersed. Some witnesses outside of the building have said the tear gas was used without warning. DPS said the gas was deployed again at Wesley Bolin plaza after the crowd vandalized a monument.
The demonstrators started gathering peacefully at 7 p.m. They then marched around the Capitol grounds. Many of them held up signs saying “Abort SCOTUS,” and “Bans off our bodies.” They also chanted “My body, my choice.” The protest was peaceful for most of the night, even with a few counterprotesters who arrived and displayed crucifixes. Law enforcement in riot gear was then seen inside the Senate building, with the protesters still outside, and in the courtyard between the Senate and House of Representatives about an hour and a half after the rally started. Then the banging started on the windows and doors of the Senate. Video from witnesses show troopers, who were in the Arizona Capitol Museum, shooting tear gas into the plaza. Once the tear gas was fired, the protesters scattered. Some fire crews showed up to help those who had severe reactions to the gas.
During this time, the Senate was still in session with members voting on expanding school vouchers. After the vote, Karen Fann cleared the Senate floor, citing a “security situation.” Troopers then used the tear gas. Officials said the Senate building was not breached. The senators went to their chambers. “We are incredibly thankful for our local law enforcement who quickly intervened during what could have been a destructive and dangerous situation for our members, staff and public inside the Senate,” Senate President Karen Fann said in a statement. The state Senate then assembled in a hearing room to continue their work.
Most of the protesters are frustrated with Friday’s court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That opens the door for states to come up with their own abortion laws and protesters feel Arizona’s law which is expected to go into effect in 90 days is too restrictive. The law bans abortion after 15 weeks. One protester said it doesn’t give women enough time to find out if they’re pregnant. “A lot of women don’t find out they are pregnant until they are two or three months pregnant. So when we do find out it’s going to be very late to get an abortion,” said Celina Martinez-Ashburn. Fifteen weeks is almost four months. In a poll conducted last month, 87% of Arizona voters support some form of legalized abortion and just 13% say it should be illegal in all circumstances.
Copyright 2022 KTVK/KPHO. All rights reserved.