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Before alleged assault, GOP candidate said he wanted to 'fix' civility in politics

Police officer Jeann Lugo dropped out of Rhode Island's state Senate race after being charged with assaulting a Democratic opponent.


A Rhode Island police officer and GOP state Senate candidate was arrested on an assault charge after allegedly punching a Democratic candidate at an abortion rights rally on Friday.

The officer, Jeann Lugo, turned himself in on charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct. He has been placed on administrative leave and announced Saturday that he was withdrawing from the race.

Most of us had no clue who Lugo was until this past weekend, when a video appearing to depict him punching Jennifer Rourke at the rally went viral on social media. The video, captured by journalist Bill Bartholomew, has been viewed millions of times and will exist in the historical record as a lasting image of the rabid and morally bereft conservative movement. 

“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office,” Rourke tweeted Saturday. “I won’t give up.”

Laughably, Lugo, who’s never served in elected office, has said he wanted to join politics to be a calming presence. He told The Boston Globe in April that the “current atmosphere” in politics motivated him to get involved, and he specifically said he would be a positive voice for people who have “lost faith in the police department” in the fallout from the 2020 racial justice protests. 

“I believe the state and the country are so divided that this is something I could help fix,” he told the Globe.

He couldn’t have been more wrong. 

But we shouldn’t see Lugo as some sort of outlier. The Republican National Committee formally excused and encouraged political violence last year when it declared its view that the deadly Jan. 6 riot was a form of “legitimate political discourse.” The party has doubled down on that belief by embracing the election fraud lies then-President Donald Trump told that fomented that violence. 

Lugo is a foot soldier in that movement, a simpleton who apparently couldn’t muster words and wanted to let his fists do the talking instead.