During an abortion rights rally in Providence, Rhode Island, on Friday, Jennifer Rourke, Democratic candidate for state Senate, was punched multiple times by her Republican opponent Jeann Lugo, an off-duty Providence police officer. A video recording shows Lugo confronting Rourke before striking her in the face. Lugo dropped out of the race after being placed on paid administrative leave and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. We speak with Rourke about the attack, and her longtime activism for reproductive rights and her current campaign in Rhode Island. “As a senator, I will work hard to pass the Equality in Abortion Care Act, and that’s to provide coverage to people on Medicaid and state employees to have the abortion care that they need,” says Rourke. She also warns that interracial and same-sex marriage rights are at risk from the Supreme Court.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
We end today’s show with a segment that some may find triggering in a different way, in lots of ways. We go to Rhode Island with state Senate Democratic candidate Jennifer Rourke. She was at an abortion rights rally on Saturday when her Republican opponent, Jeann Lugo, as she describes it, “punched me multiple times in the face.” And there’s video. Jeann Lugo is a Providence police officer who was off duty at the time.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jennifer Rourke. You’re running for the Rhode Island state Senate. He is your opponent. You’re co-founder of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. Describe exactly what happened, as we roll the video.
JENNIFER ROURKE: I was successfully deescalating a situation with a counterprotester, and the gentleman had agreed to leave. And then chaos broke out. And when I looked to my left, there was Officer Lugo and his fist, and he punched me multiple times in my face.
AMY GOODMAN: He is your opponent for the Rhode Island state Senate, and he’s a police officer.
JENNIFER ROURKE: Yes. So —
AMY GOODMAN: He punched you in the face?
JENNIFER ROURKE: He did, multiple times. He is the Republican in this race. So, he is no longer in the race, though. He removed himself.
AMY GOODMAN: So, afterwards, he was, what, suspended from the police force, and then ultimately said he pulled out of the race?
JENNIFER ROURKE: Yes. He was put on paid administrative leave, and then he announced via Twitter that he was no longer going to run for office.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you think this would have happened if the video wasn’t there?
JENNIFER ROURKE: I am so thankful for Bill Bartholomew, the reporter that recorded it. But I don’t think this would have happened if Bill had not been there.
AMY GOODMAN: How are you feeling?
JENNIFER ROURKE: I actually — I can’t hear in my left ear. I have a constant ringing, and then just some tenderness in my face. But I feel better than I did Saturday.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why you were there on Saturday?
JENNIFER ROURKE: As everyone is talking about now, on Friday morning, the SCOTUS decision came out to overturn Roe. And as a reproductive justice activist and organizer, an organization that I am a part of, we had a rally set for 8 p.m. that evening. So I was actually there in attendance as a board member of this organization. And I was speaking on how the overturning of Roe could lead to the reversal of Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence, and then especially Loving. And I am in an interracial relationship, so I was speaking on how this could overturn the validity of my marriage.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is really interesting. We were just talking about this, that Justice Thomas said — not joined by the other justices, but it may well be the direction that the court is going, that now they can move on to outlawing contraception, as well as gay marriage. He did not mention Loving, where you’re referring to the name of the case for interracial marriage. He is, you know, married to Ginni Thomas, who is — that’s a whole other story because of her involvement with the January 6th insurrection. But talk about what you feel you could accomplish as a state senator of Rhode Island, if you are elected.
JENNIFER ROURKE: So, when I get elected, we have the ability in the state to provide abortion access and reproductive care to those who are on Medicaid and to state employees. So, currently if you are a state employee for Rhode Island, you do not have access to the reproductive care, as far as abortion care, if you need it. Our previous governor had to choose one policy that did not cover abortion access, and they decided to choose nine. So, as a state employee, if you do have an ectopic pregnancy, or should you just decide you don’t want to start — you don’t want to start a family at the time, you have to pay out of pocket to cover your abortion procedure, when your insurance should cover it. So, as a senator, I will work hard to pass the Equality in Abortion Care Act — excuse me — and that’s to provide coverage to people on Medicaid and state employees to have the abortion care that they need.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. And the case you’re referring to, Loving v. Virginia. Jennifer Rourke, candidate for Rhode Island state Senate.
That does it for our show. Happy Birthday to Jon Randolph! I’m Amy Goodman. Stay safe.