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Duluth man charged in abortion protest incident

Scot Bol has been summoned to appear on a third-degree property damage charge after striking a fleeing car in June.

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A surveillance video shows Scot Bol striking a car's windshield with his walking stick as a driver speeds away from an abortion rights protest in downtown Duluth on June 27.
Contributed / Duluth Police Department
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DULUTH — A local activist has been charged with a gross misdemeanor following a controversial incident at an abortion rights protest in June.

Scot Bol, 71, was seen on video striking a car's windshield with his walking stick as the driver sped through a "Rise Up for Roe" march on the evening of June 27.

Some participants claimed the driver was being reckless by accelerating through a crowd of people, but police maintained that the woman, carrying a 6-month-old child in the back seat, was "fearful" after getting caught up in an illegal protest that forced spontaneous closures of downtown streets.

An estimated 400-500 people gathered near the Building for Women, at First Street and First Avenue East, three days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ensured abortion access throughout the nation.

Surveillance video previously released by police showed that the car was surrounded by protesters on First Avenue East, forcing the driver to come to a complete stop. After a narrow gap eventually opened, the driver quickly accelerated away from the scene, with Bol seen striking the windshield.

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Police said the driver stopped at Superior Street and Lake Avenue to call 911, stating that someone had been pushing her car and another struck it with a two-by-four.

The video, and an interview with Bol, eventually confirmed that it was not a board, but instead his walking stick. Police said he acknowledged "intentionally" striking the fleeing vehicle.

"The driver was on the roadway legally and came upon a march that they could not or did not know about and did not prepare a contingency," a previous police statement said. "Those marching in the roadway did so without permit, permission or planning with police and did so illegally. The driver's primary concern was to leave the area to a place of safety."

The criminal complaint was filed Thursday by the Duluth City Attorney's Office, charging Bol with third-degree damage to property. Police said the windshield needed to be replaced at a cost of $710.45.

He has been summoned to make his initial appearance in State District Court on Aug. 23.

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Scot Bol, of Duluth, center, speaks at a rally in December 2015.
Richard Thomas / File / Duluth Budgeteer

Bol is known for his advocacy on a number of issues, frequently taking part in local protests and having been arrested a handful of times previously for acts of civil disobedience.

He was convicted of petty misdemeanor trespassing following a demonstration inside Enbridge Energy's downtown Duluth offices in 2015, and was again found guilty of the same charge after locking himself to a security gate at the Wells Fargo building in 2018, preventing the bank from operating for roughly three hours.

A GoFundMe page started after the abortion protest raised $1,749 for Bol to obtain a new walking stick and pay legal fees.

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"Scot has taken responsibility for his actions and is hoping for an opportunity for restorative justice with the driver of the car," organizer Sarah Lyons wrote. "He understands that the situation was likely scary for her and is apologetic for any stress his actions have caused her."

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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