Police in Los Angeles are facing strident backlash after they fired rubber bullets at trans rights protesters who were taking a stand against transphobia and the far-right.
The shocking scenes unfolded in the streets surrounding Wi Spa in Koreatown, Los Angeles, on Saturday (17 July). The spa has become the focus of America’s far-right in recent weeks after a woman recorded herself screaming at staff over their trans-inclusive policies.
In the video, a woman can be heard shouting at a Wi Spa employee, claiming she had seen a trans woman undressing in their facilities. The recording has emboldened Los Angeles’ far-right, even making it onto Fox News.
Far-right demonstrators gathered for a second time outside Wi Spa on Saturday (17 July), where they repeated baseless chants about paedophilia, according to The Guardian.
Anti-trans women attending the Los Angeles demonstration carried signs that read “protect female spaces” and “it’s worse in women’s shelters”, while many of the men in attendance worse masks and helmets that covered their faces.
Pro-trans counter protesters also arrived at the scene on Saturday to express their support for the city’s trans community and for Wi Spa’s inclusive policies.
Counter protesters were alarmed to see Arthur Schaper, the leader of anti-LGBT+ hate group Mass Resistance, taking refuge behind police officers.
Police officer forcibly destroyed a trans flag at Los Angeles demonstration
Shortly after 11am, police declared that the protest was an “unlawful assembly” and those gathered were told to disperse.
Police began to use less-lethal weapons on counter protesters and anti-fascist activists, with shocking video footage showing an officer shooting a person with a rubber bullet at close range.
In the footage, the crowd can be heard chanting “don’t shoot”, but a police officer shot a counter-protester anyway.
Woman was just shot by a rubber bullet as she asked to please put down your guns— pic.twitter.com/YkZUjW007l
— waterspider (@waterspider__) July 17, 2021
“What the f**k is wrong with you?” another counter-protester can be heard shouting after the victim crumpled to the ground.
According to The Guardian, the incident occurred despite a judge’s recent ruling that restricted the LAPD’s use of certain projectile launchers against protesters.
Guardian journalist Lois Beckett said she was “thrown to the ground by right-wing anti-paedophile protesters” who “chased” and threw water at her.
“Police would not let me through the police line but after I got thrown on the ground they did,” Beckett wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, journalist Vishal P Singh shared footage of a group of police officers tearing a trans Pride flag out of the hands of a counter-protester. One of the officers subsequently tore the flag off the pole and threw it on the ground.
People want to say this wasn’t a demonstration about transgender rights? Here’s @LAPDHQ, after defending transphobes, destroying a transgender flag.
Anybody who reports on Wi Spa without mentioning the transphobia at play by the far right & LAPD are disingenuous. caropej (IG) pic.twitter.com/1BzVYRQvb7
— Vishal P. Singh (@VPS_Reports) July 17, 2021
Police arrested 38 people at the demonstration.
Writing about the incident on Twitter, the LAPD said two groups “clashed”, noting that “projectiles” were thrown at officers and a dispersal order was issued.
The LAPD said it found “numerous items” that were in violation of policies at the protest, including a stungun, knives, and pepper spray.
The police department shared images of the items it found that were in violation of its policies. Bizarrely, one of the items photographed was a small piece of wood painted in the Pride colours.
The furore kicked off after a woman claimed she had seen a trans woman using the facilities in Wi Spa in Los Angeles. In the video, which went viral after being shared by a number of high-profile right-wing Twitter accounts, the woman can be seen shouting furiously at an employee about the spa’s trans-inclusive policies.
The woman claimed cis women visiting the spa were “highly offended” by the presence of a trans woman, while she told a bystander that there is “no such thing as transgender”.
It remains unclear if a trans woman was actually using the facilities at Wi Spa that day or if the entire story was concocted as part of a far-right conspiracy.
The incident has since become just the latest chapter in the United States’ culture war surrounding trans people’s right to live their lives freely and openly.
PinkNews has contacted the LAPD for comment.