To disperse demonstrators gathering at the Arizona Capitol building in Phoenix on Friday night following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, police used tear gas.
The Arizona Republic reported that police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly after tens of thousands of protesters began hitting glass walls and doors of the state Capitol building. One individual smashed a window at the state Department of Agriculture building on Adams Street.
KPHO-TV claimed that state Department of Public Safety SWAT team members shot tear gas from the building to disperse the demonstrators. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.
The Arizona Senate was forced to momentarily suspend its meeting at 8:30 p.m. due to outside disturbance. Democrat State Senator Martin Quezada reported that the senators huddled for around 20 minutes in a basement within the building as they hurried to end their 2022 session.
After then, tear gas permeated the Capitol via the air circulation system, causing the Senate to relocate its proceedings from the Senate chamber to a hearing room.
The tear gas persisted in the courtyard between the Senate and House buildings of the state. Reports indicate that at 9:30 p.m., the crowds had left the area.
State Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican, claimed on Twitter, as she and her colleagues voted on several bills, that "protesters threatened to break the AZ Senate entryway glass." She described the protesters as "a mixture of anti-life, anti-education choice, and Antifa protesters."
According to the Arizona Daily Independent, a Planned Parenthood protest began at 6 p.m. at the Arizona State Capitol, followed one hour later by a rally organized by the Phoenix Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Phoenix chapter of Radical Women.
Republican state senator Kelly Townsend tweeted at the time, "We are currently being held prisoner inside the Senate building because members of the public are attempting to break our security. We can smell tear gas, and the children of one of the members are sobbing in the office. I anticipate that a J24 committee will be formed immediately."
She later stated, "Everyone is fine, and we're wrapping up our work."
The Republican-controlled Arizona State Senate issued a press release stating, "Efforts by violent pro-abortion protestors to stage an insurrection at the Arizona State Senate on Friday night were thwarted by swift action by local and state law enforcement."
"As members of the Arizona State Senate were finishing up passing important legislation for the session, extremist demonstrators made their way to the entrance of the Senate building and began breaking windows and pushing doors in an attempt to gain entry."
The statement characterized the circumstance as "terrifying."
Karen Fann, president of the state senate, complimented law officers for their prompt response, stating that the situation "could have been destructive and dangerous."
"Violence is never the solution, and we will not disguise a blatant attempt at insurrection as a rally or peaceful demonstration." We are requesting that all state legislators condemn these actions. "There are ways to be heard, and violence is never the solution," she added.
Friday, in cities around the nation, thousands of protesters came to the streets to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Most participants carried signs, yelled slogans, and listened to speeches.
In March, Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey approved a bill prohibiting abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, and it will go into effect in October. The 15-week timeline of the law is identical to that of the Mississippi law affirmed by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case in which Roe was overturned on Friday.
For decades, the Roe v. Wade decision permitted abortions nationwide until the 24th week of pregnancy.
"Roe v. Wade was an ill-reasoned and unconstitutional decision," Ducey stated in a statement released Friday. "The Supreme Court made the correct decision by eventually reversing it and returning executive authority to the people and states. I am pleased that Arizona has been rated the nation's most pro-life state. Here, we shall continue to value and safeguard life in every possible way."
Arizona has state legislation that existed for nearly a century before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Unless the mother's life is in jeopardy, the law automatically criminalizes abortion, and offenders are required to serve two to five years in prison.
"Roe rendered Arizona's abortion ban unenforceable. Cathi Herrod, head of the Center for Arizona Policy, said in a statement that the legislation forbidding abortions in the state save to save the mother's life should now be enforced in most Arizona counties. This would not only save innocent lives, but it will also shield women from the mental and physical consequences of abortion.
In Arizona, it is uncertain which of the two laws—the pre-Roe law or the one signed by Ducey in March—will take effect.
ABC15 Arizona reported that Republican state senator Nancy Barto, who wrote the 15-week abortion prohibition measure, stated that the courts would decide.