Fencing rings Arizona Capitol after days of Roe protests | National politics


PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Capitol was ringed with a double barrier of fencing with concertina wire strung between the barriers Monday after three straight nights of protests prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning women’s constitutional right to abortion left some memorials damaged.

The protests were mainly peaceful and led to only a handful of arrests, but the actions of small groups of people led to the damage and decision to erect the fencing Saturday, authorities said. The Arizona National Guard added the razor wire on Sunday.

The protests on Friday night, which came hours after the Supreme Court issued its opinion striking down Roe v. Wade and as the Legislature was meeting to complete its 2022 session, were the largest. The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 people gathered at the Capitol.

All was peaceful until about 8:30 p.m., when a small number of protesters began beating on the glass front of the state Senate and at least one person tried to kick in a sliding glass door. Dozens of state troopers were lined up just inside, but the group did not stop until an unannounced volley of tear gas was launched toward them from the second floor of of the old state Capitol building less than a hundred feet away.

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A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, Bart Graves, confirmed that no warning was given. He said state troopers were protecting lawmakers working inside.

“These rioters knew exactly what was at stake here and knew what our job is there and they continued to try to bust in anyway,” Graves said.

The commotion led senators to cut short an ongoing vote and flee to the basement. They returned about 20 minutes later, but lingering tear gas pulled into the large room by the building’s ventilation system forced the 30 senators and staff, reporters and the public to move to a meeting room where the air was fresher for the session’s final hours.

After the tear gas was deployed, most of the crowd either left or went into a nearby plaza packed with dozens of memorials. Tear gas was again deployed, this time with a warning and announcement first.

On Saturday morning, damage was obvious, with memorials and walls and concrete walls spray painted with “Abort the Court” and unpublishable phrases. Efforts to scrub it off were ongoing Monday.

No arrests were made Friday night, Graves said. On Saturday evening a crowd of about 1,200 people protested. After most had left, and as midnight approached, several people pulled down a section of fencing, leading to four arrests.

Fewer than 200 people protested Sunday night and five people were arrested on minor charges. No injuries were reported all weekend.

Many Republicans hailed state troopers and criticized the protestors. Democrats also praised state police and denounced protesters who were violent, while saying they want an investigation of the state police action.

Abortion providers across Arizona stopped performing the procedures Friday because they feared prosecution. Arizona has a pre-statehood law banning all abortions and a law granting legal rights to unborn children that abortion providers fear could be used to bring charges.

The Capitol was last ringed with fencing after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by backers of then-President Donald Trump and after Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020.

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