On Saturday, three weeks after a viral video sparked a heated and highly politicized debate over trans rights in gendered spaces, dueling factions clashed in the streets outside of Wi Spa on Wilshire Boulevard. As the Los Angeles Blade reports, more than 30 arrests were made as protesters flung projectiles at police and many refused to disperse after an unlawful assembly was declared. Likewise, LAPD officers dispatched foam bullets and beanbag rounds into the crowd.
Protesters opposed to the spa’s policy of accommodating trans people waved Trump flags and signs with slogans including “Save our children” and “Stop defending pedos.” Black-clad Antifa-aligned counter protesters occupied the streets surrounding the spa before the action ramped up, and roughly two dozen uniformed officers assembled to guard the spa, which was closed to business.
The right-wing protesters mobilized at MacArthur Park and remained there for a couple of hours surrounded by police. Eventually, a group of them made their way down a sidewalk to the area where the counter protestors had assembled.
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 ongoing conflict began in late June, when a spa customer claimed to have seen a person with a penis in the women’s section of the spa and confronted the spa’s staff in a video posted to social media.
“So, it’s OK for a man to go into the women’s section, show his penis around the other women, young little girls—underage—in your spa? Wi Spa condones that, is that what you’re saying?” the woman filming the video can be heard saying to a masked spa worker. When the employee attempts to answer, saying something about “sexual orientation,” the customer, who seems to deny the existence of trans people, loses it even more. “What orientation?” she shouts. “I see a dick! It lets me know he’s a man. He’s a man. He is a man. He is not no female.”
The video racked up hundreds of thousands of views over the course of the week, and on July 3, an initial protest was staged outside the spa. That demonstration also resulted in violence, and police tell the Blade that five criminal incidents that allegedly took place are still under investigation. Police are also investigating the incident inside the spa; the Blade says anonymous sources within the department have indicated that they haven’t been able to confirm that a transgender person was even at the spa on the day in question. Several outlets have questioned whether the video was staged to generate outrage at a time when conservative politicians are weaponizing trans rights for political gain.
In a statement to Los Angeles, Wi Spa defended a policy of allowing trans people to use their facilities, pointing to California Civil Code 51 (b), which makes discriminating against trans and other gender non-conforming people in business establishments illegal in the state. “Like many other metropolitan areas, Los Angeles contains a transgender population, some of whom enjoy visiting a spa,” the statement goes on. “Wi Spa strives to meet the needs of all its customers.”
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