40 People Were Arrested After A Right-Wing Media-Fueled Protest Against A Trans Woman Using A Spa

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Forty people were arrested as protesters and counterprotesters clashed outside a Los Angeles spa over transgender rights Saturday, according to the LAPD.

This is the second time protests have turned violent outside the spa since a video of an angry woman confronting staff went viral last month. In the video, the woman yells at staff that a trans woman was nude on the women's floor of Wi Spa in Koreatown and claims other women customers were offended.

The facts surrounding the video, and even whether a transgender woman was actually at the spa, haven't been confirmed. The spa told the Los Angeles Blade that none of its regular transgender clients were scheduled for appointments the day of the incident.

That hasn't stopped right-wing commentators from sharing the video, fueling outrage online, or covering the ensuing protests. Last month, the original video of the angry customer was picked up by Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight. The video garnered nearly 1 million views and thousands of retweets after Ian Miles Cheong, a conservative commentator, tweeted a thread speaking about the video. Footage from Saturday's protest shows participants chanting "Save our children," a slogan tied to QAnon conspiracies, while one man wears a Trump T-shirt and another person holds a sign saying, "Read Dr. Fauci's e-mails" — the subject of another right-wing conspiracy.

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.”

On Saturday, the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly after anti-transgender protesters and counterprotesters began to clash. Authorities told the Los Angeles Times that the unlawful assembly was declared around noon when people began throwing objects.

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In all, 39 people were arrested for failure to disperse, and another person was arrested for having a prohibited weapon, a police spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Videos posted online from Saturday's protest as well as the one earlier this month show violent clashes as the two sides confront each other.

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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 Saturday.

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Protesters were also met by a large police response. Videos posted on Twitter show police officers dressed in riot gear pushing and hitting people with batons outside the spa.

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Under California law, businesses may not discriminate against transgender customers.

The protests outside the spa come as a movement against transgender rights has become increasingly vocal across the country. Bills in multiple state legislatures are attempting to take away trans people's access to healthcare or school sports. Protests at school districts against policies on transgender students' rights have also turned violent.

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