Arizona’s Capitol surrounded by razor wire; abortion rights protests planned this week
The Arizona Capitol is surrounded by fencing and razor wire to keep abortion rights protesters away from the building.
The fences and concertina wire were installed over the weekend by the Arizona National Guard at the request of the Arizona Department of Public Safety over the weekend amid ongoing protests over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, thus ending the national right to abortion.
In Arizona, that means abortions are now illegal because a law dating back to statehood in 1912 — which was written in the late 1800s — is now enforceable. Lawmakers this year passed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks, but that legislation was designed to go into effect only if Roe was not overturned.
On June 24, the Arizona legislature adjourned its business for the year after state troopers fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside to denounce the court ruling. That led to fumes leaking into the building, temporarily disrupting the state Senate’s final night of work.
Over the course of the weekend, protests continued, with DPS arresting multiple people. State troopers arrested legal observers and temporarily detained an Arizona Republic photographer who was clearly credentialed.
On Sunday afternoon, DPS requested the assistance from the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, which mobilized Arizona National Guard members to install 2,400 feet of fencing, said DEMA Public Affairs Officer David Nunn.
DPS spokesman Bart Graves said that putting up the fence was the only assistance the National Guard provided to the agency.
The National Guard has helped police with protests in the past. During the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, the Arizona National Guard flew a surveillance aircraft over the protests. A check of the aircraft’s flight history showed it was not present over the protests over the weekend.
Friday’s protest has led to dueling narratives around the event, with Senate President Karen Fann releasing a statement stating that DPS prevented a violent insurrection, while protesters have said it was a violent overreaction by DPS.
The building was never breached, but video widely circulating showed one protester kicking at the Senate door.
“Damage was done to our glass doors by the demonstrators, however, demonstrators did not make entry because law enforcement intervened with tear gas,” said Kim Quintero, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans. “Had (state troopers) not intervened, demonstrators would have been able to make entry with continued force.”
Videos show DPS firing tear gas at people leaving the scene, with some children as young as 8 getting caught in the fray. DPS told the Arizona Mirror that it did not know how many tear gas canisters were fired at protesters, though the agency did acknowledge that the canisters did damage Capitol property.
“Unfortunately, a tear gas canister did ignite (a) palm tree but fortunately the fire was put out before too much damage was done,” Graves said. “We’re not aware of any other damage done by the canisters…We cannot provide the number of canisters used.”
Protesters over the weekend were also met by armed extremists who patrolled the Capitol grounds. Abortion rights advocates are planning to continue to protest outside of the Capitol every night this week, according to social media posts.
On Monday morning, GOP state Sens. Paul Boyer, Kelly Townsend and Sine Kerr worked alongside groundskeepers and inmate cleaning crews to help clean up graffiti on monuments in Wesley Bolin Plaza.
Graffiti with phrases like “abort the court” and “hands off our bodies” was found in the plaza on several of the memorials and walls.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.