Soon after a video appeared to capture a Republican State Senate candidate and off-duty police officer punching his Democratic opponent, a woman, at an abortion protest in Rhode Island, he was arrested and charged — and he withdrew from the race.
Jeann Lugo, 35, was charged on Saturday with simple assault and disorderly conduct after the Friday night skirmish outside the State House in Providence, according to the Providence Police Department. He was also suspended from the force.
Jennifer Rourke, 40, a progressive Democrat who is running for the State Senate for the third time after losing primaries in 2018 and 2020, identified herself as the victim.
The confrontation on Friday — viewed nearly 5 million times on Twitter in a video taken by a journalist — came as a crowd of demonstrators had assembled at the state capitol to decry the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier that day striking down Roe v. Wade.
Mr. Lugo, a three-year police veteran with the Providence Police Department, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, but he did not dispute throwing punches when reached by The Providence Journal.
“I’m not going to deny,” he told the newspaper. “It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast.”
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Lugo had a lawyer. The Providence Fraternal Order of Police also did not respond to an inquiry on Monday.
Ms. Rourke, who is Black, Puerto Rican and white, said in an interview on Monday that she was trying to escort a protester away from the crowd when the otherwise peaceful protest became heated.
“It was out of nowhere,” Ms. Rourke said. “He punched me at least two times.”
Ms. Rourke, a co-founder of Rhode Island Political Cooperative, a progressive group that supports candidates of color and those with L.G.B.T.Q. backgrounds, said she had never met Mr. Lugo before the encounter. The next morning, she said, she went to an emergency room, after experiencing hearing loss in her left ear and head pain. She also filed a police report, which was obtained by The New York Times.
“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office,” Ms. Rourke on Saturday said on Twitter. “I won’t give up.”
On Monday, Ms. Rourke’s rival in the Democratic primary, Michael J. McCaffrey, made a surprise announcement that he would retire — clearing a major obstacle in the 29th Senate District.
It was not clear whether the recent events had played a role in the decision of Mr. McCaffrey, the majority leader in the chamber who had defeated Ms. Rourke in two previous Democratic primaries. He did not respond to a message on Monday. The deadline is Wednesday for candidates to file for the Sept. 13 primary.
On Saturday, Mr. Lugo tweeted, “I will not be running for any office this fall,” before deactivating his Twitter account.
A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Democrats declined to comment on Monday. A message left for the Rhode Island Republican Party was not returned.
The Providence Police Department is continuing to investigate the matter.
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