Police investigate possible arson at anti-abortion organization in Madison

Police and firefighters are investigating suspected Arson at the Madison headquarters of an anti-abortion group just days after the release of a leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

Windows were broken and the inside of an office at Wisconsin Family Action was burned. A graffiti message spray-painted on the outside of the building read: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”

An incident report from the Madison Fire Department said flames were seen coming from the building Sunday morning. Firefighters were dispatched to the building shortly after 6 am and the fire was quickly put out.

Madison police said a Molotov cocktail, which did not ignite, was thrown inside the building. Police said a separate fire was then lit in response. No injuries were reported.

Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling told reporters she first heard about the fire from police Sunday morning.

“The police officer asked me if there was anything that had happened that I thought would provoke such an action,” Appling said. “And I said yes. I said the leaked opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes released a written statement saying it appeared Appling’s group had been targeted.

“Our department has and continues to support people being able to speak freely and openly about their beliefs,” he said in the statement. “But we feel that any acts of violence, including the destruction of property, do not aid in any cause.”

The fire is being investigated as an arson by the Madison Fire Department and the Madison Police Department. Police said they would provide an update on the case Monday at 2 pm

Wisconsin’s public officials widely condemned the possible arson.

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“We condemn violence and hatred in all forms, including the actions at Wisconsin Family Action in Madison last night,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a tweet. “We reject violence against any person for disagreeing with another’s view. Violence is not the way forward. Hurting others is never the answer.”

“This attack is abhorrent and should be condemned by all,” said Republican US Sen. Ron Johnson.

“This is disgraceful and unacceptable,” said Democratic state Attorney General Josh Kaul. “This incident must be fully investigated and whoever is responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Evers’ GOP opponents condemned the attack more broadly.

“Terrifying to see the left attack @WIFamilyAction on Mother’s Day. The radicals are trying to stop us but they know we won’t be intimidated from defending life,” tweeted former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

“Disgusting behavior from the left,” said Republican candidate for Governor Kevin Nicholson.

“The attack on Wisconsin Family Action has no place in our Democracy,” said construction executive Tim Michels.

While it’s not final, the leaked draft opinion first reported by Politico last week would overturn Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years after it was decided by the US Supreme Court. That would give states the power to decide how to handle abortion laws. In Wisconsin, should Roe be overturned, an 1849 law banning abortion would again take effect.

Appling’s group released a statement after the ruling was leaked Tuesday urging cautious optimism, saying it would be a huge victory for the pro-life cause.

Appling said that while her group has received threats over the years, this was the first time it had been attacked in this way.

In 2012, an anti-abortion activist smashed a window and threw a fire bomb inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute. That clinic have since closed.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.


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