Republicans Call Abortion Rights Protest a Capitol 'Insurrection'

Protests outside the Arizona Capitol that ended after troopers deployed tear gas were described as a thwarted insurrection by the state's Senate Republicans, while their Democrat counterparts said that the majority of protesters were peaceful.

Thousands gathered outside the state Capitol in Phoenix on Friday evening after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending constitutional protections for abortion in a bombshell decision that is expected to lead to the procedure being banned in about half the states.

Republican Senate President Karen Fann later issued a press release praising law enforcement for stopping "violent pro-abortion protestors attempts of an insurrection" as lawmakers were working to complete their 2022 session. There were no arrests.

Some protesters called out the actions of law enforcement, saying they had acted without any prior warning.

Abortion Rights Protest Arizona
In this combination image, police surround the Arizona Capitol after protesters reached the front of the Arizona Sentate building following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade Friday, June 24, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (Left) and Protesters (Right) shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision Friday, June 24, 2022, in Phoenix AP

Arizona Department of Public Safety said a peaceful protest that involved up to 8,000 people rallying outside the Capitol building "evolved into anarchical and criminal actions by masses of splinter groups."

In a statement, the DPS and that some protesters attempted to breach the building when they realized the state legislature was in session.

"The violence of their efforts literally shook the building and terrified citizens and lawmakers who occupied the building," the statement added. "As the glass doors bowed from attempts of forced entry, the occupants of the building were instructed to move to secure locations."

According to The Arizona Republic, protesters scattered when troopers fired tear gas from the second story of the Capitol building at about 8:30 p.m., with multiple protesters telling the outlet that it had come without warning.

The DPS said state troopers had exercised caution because "some people unwisely brought children" before deploying tear gas after issuing multiple warnings.

It said protesters were defacing state memorials in nearby Wesley Bolin Plaza while the "riotous behavior" was occurring outside the Capitol, but reported no arrests.

Riot police outside Arizona Capitol building
Riot police surround the Arizona Capitol building. Arizona Department of Public Safety said protest involving up to 8,000 people "evolved into anarchical and criminal actions by masses of splinter groups."

The Associated Press reported that most protesters in Phoenix were peaceful, with a handful of people banging on windows and one who forcefully tried to kick in a sliding glass door. No broken glass was visible at the Senate building after the crowd dispersed.

Fann called a recess as the "terrifying situation unfolded," so that lawmakers, staff and members of the public inside the building could evacuate, her release said.

Senate proceedings were moved to another room after the premises were secured, according to the release, because the building's air circulation system had pulled some smoke and tear gas into the Senate chambers.

"We are incredibly thankful for our local law enforcement who quickly intervened during what could have been a destructive and dangerous situation for our members, staff, and public inside the Senate," Fann said in a statement.

"Violence is never the answer, and we will not camouflage what was a blatant attempt at an insurrection as a 'rally' or 'peaceful protest.' We are calling on all state lawmakers to condemn these acts."

Arizona Senate Democrats issued a statement Saturday saying peaceful protesters had gathered to "mourn and express anger" over the Supreme Court's decision and that only a small number tried unsuccessfully to enter the building.

"We unequivocally condemn violence in all forms, and anxiously await the investigation results to explain the response of law enforcement," the statement said.

They also hit out at "right-wing media and lawmakers" who called it an "insurrection attempt," accusing them of "weaponizing this moment to deflect from the actions of January 6th."

On Twitter, state Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican, said she expected a committee like the one investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to be "created immediately."

"We are currently there being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public trying to breach our security," she wrote. "We smell teargas and the children of one of the members are in the office sobbing with fear. I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately."

Arizona House Democrats also stressed that the Capitol building was never breached by protesters. "Thanks to right-wing media amplification the lie that the Capitol was breached will make it around the world twice while the truth is putting on its pants," they tweeted

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in cities nationwide to protest Roe's fall.

In Iowa, a truck hit at least two protesters following an abortion rights rally on Friday night.

According to local media, the Vermont State House in Montpelier was defaced with a spray painted massage: "If abortions aren't safe you're not either."

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts