The headquarters of an anti-abortion group in Madison, Wis., was set on fire Sunday morning in an act of vandalism that included the attempted use of a Molotov cocktail and graffiti reading ‘If abortions aren’t not sure, then you are not”. t either,” according to police.
No one from the group, Wisconsin Family Action, was in the building at the time, and no injuries were reported. Although the Molotov cocktail thrown through a window did not ignite, the vandal(s) started another fire nearby, authorities said. The fire burned part of a wall.
The Madison Police Department did not say if it made any arrests or if more than one person was involved.
“We have notified our federal partners of this incident and are working with them and the Madison Fire Department as we investigate this arson,” the department said in a statement.
The attack came nearly a week after a leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Wisconsin has a law banning abortions that predates Roe by more than a century, but Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said he would block its implementation. Wisconsin Family Action is a nonprofit political advocacy group that promotes conservative policies on several issues, including abortion, in Wisconsin state government.
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“There is nothing we have done to justify this. We should be able to take different positions on issues without fearing for our lives,” said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action. “If anyone had been in the office, they would, at a minimum, have been hurt.”
The Madison Fire Department first received a call about the blaze around 6 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters and police arrived soon after and quickly brought the blaze under control. Ms Appling said she heard about the attack later that morning when she was preparing a Mother’s Day brunch at her church in Watertown, Wisconsin.
“I got a call from building management here saying there had been a break-in and a fire had started,” Ms Appling said. She then went with a member of the team to the building, where they discovered “the havoc and property damage”.
Ms Appling said her office was the main target of the attack. Two windows had been smashed and the water used to put out the fire had caused more damage. Ms Appling said the graffiti was particularly disturbing. “As I walked into the office and saw this, my immediate reaction was surprise at how overt the threat was,” she said. The graffiti included an anarchist symbol and the numbers 1312, shorthand for an anti-police slur.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also denounced the violence in a statement. “Our work to protect continued access to reproductive care is rooted in love,” said group president Tanya Atkinson. “We condemn all forms of violence and hatred within our communities.”
In a statement to The New York Times, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, which works with Wisconsin Family Action, attributed the attack to left-wing extremists who aim to intimidate abortion opponents, and he swore that they would not succeed. . “We are grateful for the steadfast leadership of Wisconsin Family Action and the dozens of family policy councils across the country who are committed to the sanctity of all human life,” he added.
Ms Appling said she and other members of the organization had received threats in the past and knew some people would be angry after the Supreme Court’s draft ruling leaked.
“I automatically knew that anyone who took a position in favor of writing the advisory should probably pay more attention to their safety,” she said. Still, this kind of direct attack was shocking, and she said it shook her sense of security.
She also said she would work on implementing new security measures in the office.
In a statement Sunday, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes acknowledged heightened tensions in the community after the project leaked and condemned the attack.
“Our department has and continues to help people speak freely and openly about their beliefs,” the statement said, “but we believe that any act of violence, including the destruction of property, does not help any cause.”