U.S. Capitol Police arrested 35 individuals, allegedly including 17 members of Congress, during a pro-abortion protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Among the congressional members reportedly arrested were Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Demonstrators gathered on First Street NE near the Capitol building, blocking the street, around noon on July 19.
Capitol Police tweeted a warning to the pro-abortion protesters, stating, “It is against the law to block traffic, so officers are going to give our standard three warnings before they start making arrests.”
Minutes later, the Capitol Police account tweeted that it had issued the three warnings, but “[s]ome of the demonstrators are refusing to get out of the street, so we are starting to make arrests.”
Rep. Pressley’s communications director, Ricardo Sánchez, stated that her arrest was for “non-violent civil disobedience.”
Rep. Escobar issued a press release stating she had to join the protest “in the face of unprecedented attacks on abortion access and reproductive justice, like the draconian laws and anti-woman agenda we are seeing from the Texas state legislature, Governor Abbott, and the Supreme Court.”
“My arrest today for civil disobedience was a small act in the centuries-long battle to ensure every woman has the freedom to make personal decisions with those they love and trust without politicians trying to control them,” said Escobar.
Questions around the legitimacy of the arrests circulated across social media, as videos showed several of the congress members, including Ocasio-Cortez, being led away by police with their hands behind their back but without being handcuffed.
A Capitol Police spokesperson told the New York Post that “[n]obody was handcuffed as is standard for a noncustodial arrest. Everyone was arrested for Crowding, Obstructing or Incommoding (DC Code § 22–1307).”
“As is standard for peaceful, planned protests — those who were arrested were ticketed and released on-site,” the spokesperson added.
Capitol Police officers reportedly led the demonstrators away to a shaded, grassy area nearby where they were charged with crowding, obstructing, or incommoding under D.C. law and issued a $50 fine, according to the Missouri Independent.
The “suspects were placed under arrest and processed on scene,” according to Capitol Police arrest records.
The arrested Congress members were asked to pose with their congressional IDs in lieu of a mugshot, according to the New York Post.
Rep. Omar tweeted a video of her walking with her hands behind her back after being asked to leave the street by police, with the caption saying she “will continue to do everything” in her power to push back against anti-abortion laws.
Anti-abortion congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tweeted in response to Omar’s video, claiming the representative from Minnesota “faked being handcuffed” for a “photo-op.”
“Cap Police warned you 3 times to get out of the street. Then you were arrested, so you would stop playing in traffic,” wrote Greene. “Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks in Minnesota, you’re protesting nothing. You’re a liar.”
Omar responded to Taylor-Greene’s accusation of a fake arrest on Instagram, sharing an image of her citation with a caption labeling the accusation that she had faked her arrest “the classic anatomy of a smear moment.”
Anti-abortion congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) accused Ocasio-Cortez of faking her arrest, calling it “performative art.”
“So of course @AOC fakes being in handcuffs,” Mace wrote on Twitter. “Performance, not policy, is the name of the game up here.”
“No faking here,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in response to Mace.
“Putting your hands behind your back is a best practice while detained, handcuffed or not, to avoid escalating charges like resisting arrest,” the New York Democrat added.
Pro-abortion protests have persisted outside the Supreme Court since a leaked draft opinion indicated the high court was set to overturn the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion access nationwide.
The court’s final opinion was issued last month, officially overturning Roe, with Justice Samuel Alito writing that the “Constitution makes no reference to abortion.” Therefore, he argued, the individual states have the right to regulate the procedure.
“No such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito wrote. “That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’”
“The right to abortion does not fall within this category,” Alito concluded.