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Pro-Choice Protester ‘Injured by Contact with a Vehicle’ at Iowa Abortion Rights Demonstration, Police Say


Iowa protester in altercation with truck driver.

An Iowa woman attending a demonstration protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against abortion rights was injured Friday after a “verbal altercation” ended with “contact” being made between the woman and a truck, according to local police.  No arrest was immediately made, but authorities are investigating the incident.

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, which banned states from entirely limiting, banning, or criminalizing abortion access.

According to a press release from the Cedar Rapids Police Department, officers at approximately 7:17 p.m. responded to multiple 911 calls which reported that a “pedestrian was injured by contact with a vehicle” in the area of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street in Cedar Rapids. The location is just outside the U.S. District Courthouse for the Northern District of Iowa.

“Preliminary investigations indicate a group of protesters were attempting to legally cross the street in front of the Federal Courthouse when the traffic lights changed, giving right of way to vehicles on 8th Avenue,” the press release states. “Following verbal confrontations between the protestors and a driver, contact was made between a vehicle and one of the pedestrians.”

Upon arriving at the scene, officers interviewed the injured pedestrian before she was transported in a private vehicle to a local hospital for evaluation. Police said that the woman’s injury “appears to be minor.”  (One TV station said the truck ran over the woman’s foot.)

The driver of the vehicle was voluntarily interviewed by police at the scene and then released. Investigators canvassed the area and are making efforts to obtain surveillance camera footage of the incident.

Cell phone video of the incident was captured and posted across social media sites Friday evening. The brief clip, which did not capture the entire incident, appears to show approximately eight t0 10 protesters around a dark-colored pickup truck as the vehicle was already in motion. At least two of the protesters appear to be standing directly in front of the vehicle, which continues moving forward as other demonstrators give chase.

Another video that was posted to Twitter shows the incident from another, closer angle:

The injured woman, later identified as Alexis Russell, was interviewed by Cedar Rapids CBS/FOX affiliate KGAN.

“I was over here, I turned around — the light was red, and the truck got impatient for whatever reason and charged into the crowd,” Russell told the station. “There’s at least three people, I look over — I see people trying to push the truck back — and I just instantly got mad and ran over and tried to stop the truck — tried to stop him.  He grabbed — ripped my sign, and pushed me down.  Drove off — and that was it.”

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, who was reportedly at the demonstration and assisted the injured pedestrian, spoke to The Gazette of Cedar Rapids Friday evening.

“What happened today was an act of pure violence,” Walker reportedly said. “Young women who were protesting the recent Supreme Court decision that threatens their right to health care and bodily autonomy were targeted. Many of them were physically hurt and many will be afflicted by the mental trauma of this event.”

Walker reportedly told the Gazette that one of the two protesters in front of the vehicle when it accelerated was a Linn County staffer. He also reportedly called for charges to be brought against the driver.

“It became apparent that the vehicle had no intention of stopping so I ran as fast as I could to try to get the young staffer out of harm’s way,” he said. “The driver accelerated and injured several young women in the process. Thankfully the women in front of the vehicle were not run over,” he said. “It is my hope that the individual responsible for this act will be brought to justice, and that the basic human rights of all people can be honored in this country.”

Cedar Rapids Councilmember Ashley Vanorny reportedly told Waterloo NBC affiliate KWWL that the driver was frustrated with the line of traffic being caused by the demonstrators and “decided to jump the line that they were in, and essentially plow into the rest of the pedestrians that were walking.”

“I don’t have any information that they were doing this because of anything regarding our protests today or March throughout town. They just seem to be impatient and had, in my opinion, blatant disregard for human life, because if you’re seeing half a dozen people in a crosswalk, some of them young children,” she reportedly told the station. “The fact that they pushed into somebody knowing that that was a human being, and then push them again, and then decided just to keep going and speed up as people are trying to stop this car. That was assaulting people and running into persons in the crosswalk.”

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.