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Wisconsin anti-abortion office fire investigation ongoing

UPDATED: Mon., May 9, 2022

By Scott Bauer Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — Police said Monday that they hadn’t arrested anyone over a weekend fire and vandalism at the office of a prominent Wisconsin anti-abortion lobbying group.

The fire at the Wisconsin Family Action office in Madison, which the FBI is helping investigate, came after two Catholic churches in Colorado, including one known for its annual anti-abortion display, were vandalized last week.

The leak last week of a draft opinion suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court was on course to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide sparked protests across the country, including multiple ones in Madison. Demonstrations included weekend protests by abortion rights supporters outside the homes of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, with more planned this week.

Madison police said a fire was set inside the Wisconsin Family Action office after a Molotov cocktail thrown into the building failed to ignite. The message “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was spray-painted on the exterior.

Flames were seen coming from the office shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday, and the fire is being investigated as arson.

No one was hurt.

Police spokeswoman Stephanie Fryer said no one has been arrested and that local and federal authorities, including from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would be giving an update on the investigation later Monday, including the possible charges they are pursuing.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is up for reelection in November, decried the attack Monday when asked about it at a groundbreaking event in a Madison suburb.

“It was a horrible, horrible incident,” Evers said, adding that whoever is responsible “should be arrested and put on trial. This is unacceptable.”

“Violence does not solve the issues we’re facing as a country,” Evers said.

The president of the lobbying group, Julaine Appling, said she believed the vandalism was a direct response to the leak of the court’s draft opinion. She said “this attack fails to frighten us, and instead steels the resolve of law-abiding, common-sense, every-day folks to stand up and push back.”

Wisconsin Family Action has been a prominent force in the state for years, advocating for laws to limit access to abortions, fighting to overturn Roe v. Wade and working on numerous other hot-button social issues.

Politicians from both parties swiftly condemned the vandalism.

Clinics that perform abortions have sometimes been targeted by vandals, too, including as recently as January when a Planned Parenthood clinic in Tennessee was hit by arson.

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