No suspects yet in the arson of the headquarters of Wisconsin anti-abortion group

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MADISON, Wis. – Police have not yet identified a suspect in the arson at the offices of a prominent anti-abortion group that occurred just days after a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion was leaked to reporters showing the court’s landmark ruling legalizing abortion for the last 50 years would be overturned. 

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes told reporters Monday his investigators are still searching for video footage of what took place Sunday morning when two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the offices of Wisconsin Family Action on the north side of Madison. 

The firebombs did not ignite, Barnes said, but a separate fire was lit in their place. The threat “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was also scrawled in black spray paint on the outside of the building. 

“Hate or violence do not advance any cause. And unfortunately, we’re investigating the fruits of hate and violence in the form of an arson where a specific nonprofit group was targeted for their beliefs regarding the issue of abortion,” Barnes said in a news conference in downtown Madison. 

Barnes was joined Monday by ATF and FBI agents, who are assisting in the investigation. 

‘THIS ATTACK IS ABHORRENT’: Wisconsin police investigating fire at Wisconsin anti-abortion office as arson

Wisconsin Family Action, a Christian-based organization that opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, and vaccine mandates, is an influential lobbying group in Wisconsin that also spends money to elect their preferred candidates. 

The group has for years pushed Wisconsin and federal lawmakers to outlaw abortions. The leaked Supreme Court opinion has heightened the emotions of supporters and opponents of abortion access over the already intensely controversial issue that has spurred violence in the past.

If the final Supreme Court ruling matches the language of the leaked draft, an 1849 law banning most abortions would go into effect in Wisconsin.

Julaine Appling, the group’s president, said police notified her about 7:45 a.m. while she was at church in Watertown, about 42 miles away. The first call to police reporting flames in Appling’s office arrived around 6 a.m.

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Madison firefighters extinguished the blaze that appeared to damage a row of books that sat in front of the window vandals smashed. By mid-morning on Sunday, Appling and another staff member were cleaning up the office. On Monday, the graffiti had been covered by fresh paint. 

President Joe Biden through a spokeswoman denounced the attack on Monday. 

Biden “strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism,” Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet. 

“Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety,” Psaki said, referring to protests in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices. 

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.