Fears of violence against pro-choice protests intensify amid wave of attacks

Fears over police violence and attacks by anti-abortion activists have been growing following a wave of incidents at demonstrations against the US supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, which upheld the constitutional right to an abortion.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered at protests objecting to the ruling. The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful but some have seen incidents of police violence – including attacks on protesters – and an incident of a car driving dangerously through marchers.

Law enforcement cracked down on protests in multiple states, wielding batons and forcibly removing protesters from public spaces and firing teargas in Arizona.

Over two dozen pro-choice activists were arrested in New York City as protests took place in Washington Square Park, Union Square and in front of the NewsCorp building in midtown, home to Fox News studios.

In Arizona, police fired rounds of teargas into protesters from inside the state Capitol building. Police later issued a statement saying they were concerned protesters would gain access to the building.

Police fire teargas at pro-choice protesters outside Arizona state capitol on Saturday – video

In Greenville, South Carolina, six protesters were arrested following a clash with police that left some injured. In one video widely circulated on social media, a police officer is seen threatening a woman with a Taser and throwing an elderly man to the ground.

Allen Chaney, a spokesperson for South Carolina’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Guardian: “The ACLU of South Carolina strongly condemns violence against peaceful protesters. It should be the case that you can show up and peacefully protest in this country without fear of violence or wrongful arrest.”

Protesters get ready to march to the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, Iowa.
Protesters get ready to march to the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, Iowa. Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Meanwhile, a pickup truck ploughed through protesters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hospitalizing one woman. The Cedar Rapids police department declined to comment on the incident. The state recently passed a law making it legal for drivers to hit protesters with vehicles in certain circumstances. Other states in the US have passed similar laws.

In Los Angeles, California, the Full House actor Jodie Sweetin was surrounded by police officers and pushed to the ground in front of fellow pro-choice protesters.

In a statement following the event, Sweetin said: “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”

Journalists reporting in Los Angeles were also involved in violent incidents at the hands of police. Reporter Tina Desiree Berg was grabbed by a police officer, despite wearing a press badge around her neck. Samuel Braslow, another reporter for the Beverly Hills Courier, was also filmed being pushed by police.

Police hold a pro-choice demonstrator to the ground in Los Angeles, California.
Police hold a pro-choice demonstrator to the ground in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Vishal P Sing/Reuters

The Los Angeles police department issued a statement to the Guardian: “The LAPD is aware of the video clip of a woman being pushed. The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.

“As the nation continues to wrestle with the latest supreme court decision, the Los Angeles police department will continue to facilitate First Amendment rights, while protecting life and property.”

In response to the arrests, private companies such as Live Nation Entertainment and the clothing retailer Patagonia offered to bail their employees out of jail, if arrested while peacefully protesting.

The company issued a statement that said: “Patagonia supports choice.”

“Caring for employees extends beyond basic health insurance, so we take a more holistic approach to coverage and support overall wellness to which every human has a right.”