Knives, stun gun and pepper spray found after protest over trans-inclusive spa turns violent

Police recovered a stun gun, pepper spray, mace and several knives after protests outside a spa Los Angeles targeted for its trans-inclusive policies.

Forty people were arrested at the protest on Saturday (17 June) outside the Wi Spa in Koreatown, which was sparked by a viral video of a woman screaming at spa staff for their refusal to discriminate against a trans woman. Far-right protestors were joined by counter-demonstrators backing the spa’s trans inclusion.

Thirty-nine of the arrests were for failure to disperse and one person was arrested for carrying a prohibited item, police confirmed.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) shared images of the items discarded on the road, including a small wooden shield painted in rainbow colours.

Detective Meghan Aguilar, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, said no officer was injured and no protester was transported to hospitals.

At a protest near Wilshire Bl & Rampart Bl, 2 groups clashed. Smoke bombs/projectiles were thrown at ofcrs & a dispersal order was issued. Several dozen people were arrested. Numerous items in violation of 55.07 LAMC were found discarded including a stungun, knives, pepper spray pic.twitter.com/exk7vvTfRm

— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) July 17, 2021

The demonstration was led by far-right protesters, with HuffPost reporting links to the white supremacist group Proud Boys, who repeated baseless chants about paedophilia.

Footage shows some participants shouting “Save our children”, a slogan tied to QAnon conspiracies, while another holds a sign saying, “Read Dr Fauci’s e-mails” – the subject of another right-wing conspiracy. Some protesters carried religious and homophobic signs, including one that said “Homo sex is a sin.”

It wasn’t long before violence broke out as demonstrators began brawling with pro-trans counter-protesters who joined in support of Wi Spa.

Police declared an unlawful assembly at around 11am when people started throwing objects. At this point officers began moving into the crowd dressed in riot gear, pushing and hitting people with batons outside the spa.

Videos show the police firing less-lethal projectiles, including bean bags and rubber bullets. One shocking video shows an officer shooting a person with a rubber bullet at close range as the crowd chants “don’t shoot”.

Lois Beckett, a reporter for the Guardian, tweeted that she was knocked down by “right-wing anti-pedophile protesters” who chased her and threw water on her.

Just got thrown to the ground by right-wing anti-pedophile protesters as a crowd coverged on me and chased me. They threw water at me and screamed about Jesus and said to grab my phone. Police would not let me through the police line but after I got thrown on the ground they did. pic.twitter.com/LDGqkua3fi

— Lois Beckett (@loisbeckett) July 17, 2021

No evidence the Wi Spa incident even happened

It was the second weekend this month that protests broke out at the spa, which became a focus of the far-right after a woman recorded herself screaming at staff over their trans-inclusive policies.

In a now-viral video the customer furiously claims she had seen a trans woman exposing her genitals to young girls in their facilities.

Misgendering, she claimed the spa let the woman in the a “wet spa section where all the women are naked, mothers with their young daughters and teens,” she later claimed on Instagram.

“The Wi Spa allowed [her] access just because [she] calls himself a woman.”

Police grew to suspect a hoax after failing to find any witnesses who saw a trans woman at the spa, let alone the scene described; Wi Spa also confirmed that none of their trans clients had scheduled appointments that day.

That hasn’t stopped right-wing commentators like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson from sharing the questionable video, fuelling outrage online.

Under California law, businesses may not discriminate against transgender customers. The spa defended its policy to allow transgender customers into gender-specific areas in a statement to Los Angeles Magazine last month.

“Like many other metropolitan areas, Los Angeles contains a transgender population, some of whom enjoy visiting a spa,” the statement said. “Wi Spa strives to meet the needs of all its customers.”