Arizona abortion protest: Police release tear gas, lawmakers ‘held hostage’ in Senate building


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Law enforcement in Phoenix, Arizona, used tear gas to disperse a large group of protesters outside the state Senate building following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade.

“Protesters threatened to smash the glass in the entrance to the AZ Senate,” Arizona State Republican Senator Wendy Rogers tweeted as members voted on a series of bills.

The situation escalated into a “hostage” situation as lawmakers were ordered not to exit the building, Republican Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend said.

Law enforcement is forced to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Roe v. Wade landmark on June 24, 2022.
(Arizona State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita)

“We are currently being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public attempting to breach our security,” Townsend tweeted Friday night. “You can smell tear gas and one member’s children are in the office sobbing in fear.”

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“I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately,” she added, referring to the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol insurrection.

Law enforcement is forced to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Roe v.  Wade on June 24, 2022. (Rep. Sarah Liguori)

Law enforcement is forced to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. (Rep. Sarah Liguori)

According to lawmakers, law enforcement then deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd and regain control of the building.

“The crowd was dispersed with tear gas.” Rogers added, noting that protests continued and the situation remained “very dangerous”.

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Another lawmaker confirmed the use of tear gas outside the building.

“While working inside we were interrupted by a loud bang and the smell of tear gas,” Rep. Sarah Liguori tweeted Friday night. “Protesters have been evacuated from the Capitol.”

Heavily armed officers were seen in and around the legislative building.

State senators continued to vote in the chamber, with Friday set to be the last day of session. The round of votes includes a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher system that passed the House earlier this week.

“We’re heading to a secure room to go vote,” Rogers said.

The Senate is also expected to vote on several election-related bills.

The United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday afternoon, effectively giving individual states the power to license, limit or prohibit the practice as they see fit.

Effective June 24, Planned Parenthood of Arizona suspended all abortions, medical and surgical. According to AZ Central, seven of the state’s nine licensed providers immediately halted abortions.

Arizona has competing laws that ban the procedure altogether or limit it to 15 weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed the law limiting abortions to 15 weeks in March.

Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark abortion decision Roe v.  Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The old law, created during Arizona’s territorial era, strictly prohibits abortion. It also calls for a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years for offenders. The only exception to the ban is for abortions necessary to save a woman’s life.

The Republican majority in the state Senate said Friday that the old law banning abortion outright is enforceable. For the moment, it is not known which law will prevail. The state court system, likely the Arizona Supreme Court, will have to settle the matter.

At least 13 states have already passed so-called “trigger laws” that ban most abortions, following the High Court ruling. These will take effect immediately or within weeks of the cancellation of Roe v. Wade.

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Protesters scream as they join thousands marching around the Arizona Capitol following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe v.  Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Phoenix.

Protesters scream as they join thousands marching around the Arizona Capitol following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Phoenix.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

These states include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.

Lorraine Taylor, Jessica Chasmar and Fox News’ Associated Press contributed to this report.


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