The Arizona Senate was evacuated Friday night after a violent crowd of pro-abortion protestors surrounded the Arizona State Senate building. Police fired tear gas from windows in the Capitol in an effort to control the mob.
AP reports that this incident caused lawmakers to shelter in the basement for roughly 20 minutes before they had to flee the building due to the tear gas fumes.
“Protesters threatened to break the AZ Senate entryway glass,” Republican Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers tweeted, as members were in the middle of voting on a series of bills.
The situation escalated into a “hostage” situation as lawmakers were instructed not to exit the building, Republican Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend said.
The Republican Caucus of the State Senate later called the protest an attempted “insurrection.”
“We are currently there being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public trying to breach our security,” Townsend tweeted Friday night. “We smell tear gas and the children of one of the members are in the office sobbing with fear.”
“I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately,” she added, referencing the January 6 committee that is investigating the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
According to the lawmakers, law enforcement officers then deployed tear gas to disperse the crowds and regain control of the building.
“Crowd was dispersed with tear gas.” Rogers added, noting the protests were still continuing and the situation remained “very dangerous.”
Tear gas… pic.twitter.com/hPt7k4tvVK
— Wendy Rogers (@WendyRogersAZ) June 25, 2022
Another lawmaker confirmed the use of tear gas outside the building.
“While working inside we were interrupted by the sound of bangs and smell of tear gas,” Rep. Sarah Liguori tweeted Friday evening. “Protestors cleared from the Capitol.”
Heavily-armed officers were seen in and around the legislative building.
Arizona State Senate pic.twitter.com/0acGnDf5Y4
— Michelle Ugenti-RITA (@MichelleUgenti) June 25, 2022
The crowd of protesters has since dispersed and lawmakers resumed their legislative schedule in a secure room.
“We are headed to a secure room to go vote,” Rogers said.
“Everyone is okay and we are finishing our work,” Townsend added.
“Feeling safe at the Capitol as I sit by 3 of my fellow senators who are armed,” added Arizona State Legislator Warren Petersen.
Feeling safe at the Capitol as I sit by 3 of my fellow senators who are armed. pic.twitter.com/N300F9JAVl
— Warren Petersen (@votewarren) June 25, 2022
In the hours following the situation, several members thanked the law enforcement officials who protected the Capitol.
“God bless you guys,” exclaimed Townsend.
“We are safe inside… God bless law enforcement,” Rodgers said.
— Senator Kelly Townsend 🇺🇸 (@AZKellyT) June 25, 2022
The Republican Caucus of the State Senate also commended law enforcement for preventing an “insurrection.”
“Violent pro-abortion protestors’ attempts of an insurrection at the Arizona State Senate were thwarted Friday night, thanks to the swift actions from local and state law enforcement,” said Kim Quintero, the Republican Caucus’ communications director.
The GOP group said the “extremist demonstrations” were carried out by people “forcibly trying to make entry [to the building] by breaking windows and pushing down doors.”
“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,” said Senate President Karen Fann.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday afternoon, effectively giving individual states the power to allow, limit, or ban the practice as they see fit.