June 26, 2022

RI Senate candidate suspends campaign after political rival says she was assaulted at abortion rally

An off-duty police officer who was running for state Senate as a Republican in Rhode Island suspended his campaign and faces charges after his Democratic political rival says he attacked her during an abortion rights rally.  

The Providence police officer, Jeann Lugo, a candidate in the race for Senate District 29,  has been placed on paid administrative leave following the incident at the State House in Providence on Saturday. 

Rhode Island Political Cooperative Chairwoman Jennifer Rourke said Lugo punched her twice in the face, The Providence Journal reported. 

“To me, this feels like an act of political violence similar to the acts of violence that we have seen across the U.S.,” Rourke said. “I’m a Black woman running for office. There was no need, no need for any of this. I’m not going to give up.”

Lugo, who has been on the force for three years, is under investigation, police said. 

Jennifer Rourke of Warwick, photographed in 2019, is a director of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and also running for state Senate.

The incident comes as tensions run high after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.  

Lugo was arraigned on charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct on Saturday. He was later released on his own recognizance pending a July 8 court date, according to a news release by Providence Police spokeswoman Lindsay Lague. 

Lugo was placed on administrative leave pending the criminal investigation and administrative review, Lague said.

Rourke denied Lugo’s allegation, which claimed she had become physical with him. Lugo did not deny punching Rourke.

“I’m not going to deny,” Lugo told The Journal of the punching allegation. “It was very chaotic, so I can’t really tell you right now. Everything happened very fast.”

Contributing: The Providence Journal

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