TEMPE, Ariz. — A group of protesters was sprayed with mace after concluding an abortion rights rally in Tempe Sunday night. At least one adult and two children were treated for injuries.
The incident happened after nearly 100 people from the activist group Human Rights Fighters organized a sit-in at Tempe Beach Park during an Independence Day event.
Before the fireworks show, the group headed south on Mill Avenue and concluded their protest on University Drive near a CVS where they stopped to buy snacks, Darien Barrett said, one of the observers of the group.
“We were waiting for everyone to come out, I was looking around and happened to notice a person in a purple car flipping out the group,” he said. “Upon noticing it was right-wing agitators I told the group to keep an eye out and I approached the car.”
Barrett said he walked to the vehicle and spoke to the passenger. He told the pair there “was nothing to see” because they were done for the night. Adding he knew the couple in the car from previous protests.
“I then noticed someone starts walking to the car and I start following along, but this girl didn’t get as close as I did or was within arms-reach when she was sprayed,” Barret said. “Someone then waved a flag in the direction of the car and that person got sprayed.”
Tempe police said around 9:30 p.m. a subject deployed what appeared to be pepper spray. Tempe Fire medical and officers responded to the area where the victims were treated, the department said in a statement.
12 News tried to contact the two people in the vehicle, but they declined to comment.
Tempe police identified Jennifer Harrison as a suspect in this case. On Thursday, police said she self-surrendered to police and was booked and charged with disorderly conduct and assault. Additional charges of aggravated assault will be submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for review.
Two children were sprayed with mace
Among the protesters was Storm Glassheart and her two children, Haili and Aiden, just nine and five years old.
The three were among the injured during Sunday’s incident.
“It stinged, like if you got stung by a bee, it hurt,” Haili said. “All for no reason. We were about to leave, it was a good protest, it was safe, then that happened. Aiden was actually sobbing, it hurt him.”
The family was helped by CVS employees and then rushed to a nearby fire station, Glassheart said.
The mother said she saw the first person get sprayed, and that’s when she ran to try and help her.
“She completely coated in this thick orange woopy stuff and she went down,” Glassheart said. “There were people yelling, ‘water, water' and as I rushed to help her I got mace all over me too.”
Since Roe was overturned on June 24th, Glassheart said she had skipped on other rallies, waiting for one that was family-friendly. Since Sundays was planned at a family event, she decided to take her kids, something she had done in the past.
Sunday’s event was peaceful until the end, she said.
“I’m very comfortable and believe it’s very important for my children to be involved in political activism,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever forgive [the passenger] for turning something that was so peaceful and so positive into something that traumatized my children.”
Tempe police are investigating the incident.
“It’s still early, and things may change as we learn more as the investigation unfolds. We will continue and hold involved parties accountable,” the department said in a statement.
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