By Terri Jo Neff |
The reactions to Friday night’s initially peaceful protest at the State Capitol which was turned into a melee by agitators eerily echo the response to the January 6, 2021 events in Washington DC, only this time the political shoes are on different feet.
Many Republicans back in 2021 urged Americans to not paint all attendees at protests and rallies across Washington DC on Jan. 6 as criminals. In fact, less than 2,000 of the estimated 40,000 who gathered in the city that day have ever been investigated or charged for engaging in criminal conduct.
Yet some leaders of the Democratic Party have sought since then to paint anyone who attended a “J6” protest or rally as domestic terrorists.
Their tune has changed, however, at least as it relates to Friday night’s gathering of what an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman said was 7,000 to 8,000 people present to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.
Among those who promoted the protest was Raquel Teran, the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party and a LD30 state representative. Teran tweeted a flyer which called on those who opposed the SCOTUS ruling to show up at the Capitol on Friday at 7 p.m.
The same event was publicized by a group going by the name RadicalWomenPHX which advised those attending to use a Sharpie to write the group’s arrest hotline on their arms “as an extra safety precaution” if the protest went “sideways.”
Teran is another Arizona Democrat who does not shy away from calling on supporters to “fight” in the streets, despite national Democrats who continue to blame former President Donald Trump’s call for supporters to fight election fraud as the cause of the incursion into the U.S. Capitol in 2021.
Twenty-four hours later, Teran had not tweeted any condemnation of those seen in multiple videos attempting to kick in doors at the Senate Building. Or those belonging to what an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesperson called “splinter groups” who turned the initially peaceful protest into “anarchical and criminal actions.”
According to Graves, when some of the attendees realized the Arizona Legislature was in session, “they attempted to breach the doors of the Arizona Senate and force their way into the building. The violence of their efforts literally shook the building and terrified citizens and law makers who occupied the building.”
At one point some of the glass doors of the Senate building bowed from the attempts of forced entry, which Graves said triggered security and law enforcement officials to instruct everyone inside the building to move to secure locations.
“Due to the direct threat to the occupants of the Senate building and damage to the building itself, Arizona State Troopers took immediate action and utilized tactics including the deployment of field force teams and tear gas,” Graves noted.
On Saturday, Senate President Karen Fann tweeted a short video recorded by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita from inside the Senate building. The video shows protestors outside the building, which has several glass doors and windows on the ground floor.
In her tweet, Fann described the crowd as an “insurrection” but the DPS statement makes clear no one unlawfully entered any of the Capitol buildings. In fact, the video taken by Ugenti-Rita shows most of the large crowd of protestors yelling and carrying signs. Only a handful of agitators are seen pounding on the windows and kicking at the glass doors.
There were also false social media reports about educators “invading” the Arizona Senate as part of the protests, which Fann quickly refuted. She noted the educators seen in photos wearing Red for Ed shirts on the Senate floor were guests seated in the gallery and then brought to the floor in an effort to get them to safety along with Senators and staff.
Ugenti-Rita tweeted a second video taken later on Friday night when a DPS tactical team was deployed inside the Senate building. By then many of the protestors and rioters had left the area after tear gas was fired at the unruly crowd. .
Sen. T.J. Shope supported the decision by DPS command to utilize tear gas when the crowd failed to stop the attack on the building.
However, the situation at the Senate building was not the only one which triggered a law enforcement response in the area.
“As the riotous behavior at the Legislature was taking place, concurrent and spillover criminal misconduct in the form of felony criminal damage and the defacing of state memorials was occurring in Wesley Bolin Plaza,” Graves said.
The response of troopers and other law enforcement officers was complicated by the fact some people had brought children to the protest which turned into unlawful assembly, according to Graves.
“After multiple warnings, and notifications of trespass and unlawful assembly, state troopers deployed gas and strategically moved to clear the plaza,” Graves said, adding that as rioters were cleared from one area they damaged state property in the next area. Those properties and publicly funded memorials which suffered what Graves called “significant criminal damage” include:
- Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Memorial
- Arizona Peace Officers Memorial
- Lt. Frank Luke Jr. Memorial
- Korean War Memorial
- Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial
- Wesley Bolin Memorial Amphitheatre
- 158th Regimental Memorial
Estimates for the cost of cleaning and repairing the damage is not yet available. DPS released no information about any arrests which may have been made in connection with the damage, but among those calling for prosecution of those who marred the various memorials is Republican gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson, who shared several photos taken by Sen. Kelly Townsend the morning after.