Warning: Videos in this story contain violence and profanity that may be offensive.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza tweeted on Saturday that he is limited in what he can say due to the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).
“With that said, I’ve seen the video and it’s immensely disturbing,” Elorza said. “Those responsible will be held fully accountable.”
Despite video capturing the punch being posted to social media by journalist Bill Bartholomew, Lugo didn’t deny or confirm hitting Rourke in an interview with The Providence Journal.
“I’m not going to deny,” he told the newspaper Friday night. “It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast.”
Attorney Daniel Griffin, who is representing Lugo, told The Providence Journal there is “far more to what occurred” than what is being shared. “Unfortunately, our approach is in direct contrast to the one taken by the media which, as usual, was to hastily publish a story and condemn Officer Lugo based on seconds of edited video devoid of any context,” Griffin said. “Thanks to that, the safety of Officer Lugo and his family has been threatened by extremists on social media.”
Griffin went on to praise Lugo as “a tremendous police officer in his time with the City of Providence,” and a “dedicated father and husband and a real asset to his community.”
Lugo claimed he was trying to come to the defense of a man he identified to The Providence Journal as Josh Mello. The video shows protesters demanding a man leave the protest before someone in a green jacket punches Mello, and Lugo is accused of doing the same to Rourke.
“There was a man getting attacked so I was trying to reach him, and there were some protesters behind me,” he said.
While state police arrested two right-wingers identified in The Providence Journal as Jessica Burton and Nicholas Morrell on disorderly conduct charges (among others, in Morrell’s case), state police did not arrest Lugo that night.
Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré told the Journal that “LEOBOR prohibits public statements beyond what we have confirmed.”
The officers’ bill of rights Elorza and Paré cited maintains that in non-criminal matters, no public statement can be made prior to a hearing committee’s decision, and only in cases when the officer is found guilty of the allegations.
“The foregoing shall not preclude a law enforcement agency, in a criminal matter, from releasing information pertaining to criminal charges which have been filed against a law enforcement officer, the officer’s status of employment and the identity of any administrative charges brought against said officer as a result of said criminal charges,” officials state in the bill of rights.
The violence in Rhode Island was hardly the sole incident of authorities and civilians alike responding violently to abortion rights protesters. A truck plowed through an Iowa crowd and hit at least two protesters on Friday in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, journalist Lyz Lenz told the Associated Press.
“There was a moment where I said, ‘I think I’m going to see my friends die,'” Lenz said.
By Friday night, Cedar Rapids police had released this statement reporting one person injured:
“Preliminary investigations indicate a group of protesters were attempting to legally cross the street in front of the Federal Courthouse when the traffic lights changed, giving right of way to vehicles on 8th Avenue. Following verbal confrontations between the protestors and a driver, contact was made between a vehicle and one of the pedestrians.
Cedar Rapids Police quickly responded to the scene. The injured pedestrian was interviewed on-scene by CRPD and then taken by private vehicle to a local hospital for evaluation. The driver of the vehicle was also voluntarily interviewed by Cedar Rapids Police.
Injury to the pedestrian appears to be minor. Cedar Rapids Police are canvasing the scene to obtain potential surveillance video and more information will be made available when possible.”
In another incident, video showed Full House actress Jodie Sweetin being shoved to the ground by Los Angeles police officers at an abortion rights protest over the weekend. Mike Ade, a journalist who witnessed the encounter, said in an Instagram post that it pained him to see Sweetin, who played the character Stephanie Tanner, thrown to the ground.
“She was trying to lead a group of peaceful protesters away from the freeway,” Ade said on Instagram. “(Shaking my head) @LAPDHQ what are y’all doing? Jodi is the definition of a real one and fortunately she’s okay! But for others who choose to protest today move with caution and keep your head on swivel. It’s going to be a very long summer.”