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

It was the second time violent protesters have gathered in Los Angeles outside Wi Spa, though little has been confirmed about any incident involving a trans woman.

Posted on July 18, 2021, at 4:36 p.m. ET

The protester from earlier says that “trans are not women” while others chant “save our children.” “Sorry, unless you have a period, unless you buy tampons, unless you get cramps,” she says.

Twitter: @SamBraslow

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.”

A pale building with "Wi Spa" on the exterior at Wilshire Boulevard
Damian Dovarganes / AP

This July 4 photo shows the exterior of the Wi Spa in Koreatown in Los Angeles.

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.

An emergency public safety alert was just issued, as police declare an unlawful assembly outside the Wi Spa in Los Angeles #WiSpa #LA

Twitter: @BGOnTheScene

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.

A group of people come with religious and homophobic signs. Activists grab a sign that says “Homo sex is a sin.” One of the protesters pushes an activist, leading to a full brawl.

Twitter: @SamBraslow

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.

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.

Twitter: @loisbeckett

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.

Cops being aggressive with the counterprotesters— one violently shoved a journalist (at the end of vid)

Twitter: @waterspider__

Woman was just shot by a rubber bullet as she asked to please put down your guns—

Twitter: @waterspider__

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.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.