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Madison Police ask public for help finding suspects in anti-abortion office arson

Police are still looking for suspects in the arson at Wisconsin Family Action
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 12:05 PM CDT|Updated: May. 9, 2022 at 2:39 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Police held a news conference Monday on an arson investigation at an anti-abortion organization in Madison.

“Our department has and continues to support people being able to speak freely and openly about their beliefs. But we feel that any acts of violence, including the destruction of property, do not aid in any cause,” said Police Chief Shon Barnes. “We have made our federal partners aware of this incident and are working with them and the Madison Fire Department as we investigate this arson.”

Chief Barnes was backed up by an assistant fire chief and federal agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“There is no room for hate or violence in Madison. In fact, there’s no room for hate or violence anywhere in our country,” Barnes said. “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.”

On Sunday morning, police and firefighters responded to Wisconsin Family Action in the 2800 block of International Lane. Flames were reported by a passerby at 6 A.M. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

“It appears a non-profit that supports anti-abortion measures was targeted,” police say.

Arson investigators are working to determine the exact cause of the fire.

“A Molotov cocktail, which did not ignite, was thrown inside the building. It also appears a separate fire was started” when that initial firebombing attempt failed, police say. There were no reports of injuries.

The message “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was painted on the outside of the building as well as an “A” symbol for anarchy and the numbers “1312,” referring to opposition to police.

Investigators ruled out a conspiracy theory, which spread on social media, that it was an inside job.

“The message to Madison residents is that there is no place in Madison for any type of hate speech, for any type of violence, or any type of property destruction, to advance any cause,” Barnes said. “If you’re thinking about doing something like that, I would recommend that you not. It doesn’t look good for your cause, it doesn’t look good for our community and that’s not what we expect.”

Federal investigators have been briefed on the scene.

The crime has been condemned by people on both sides of the issue. It comes just days after a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion appears to show the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees abortion rights in the United States.

“While this attack was directly provoked by the leaked draft opinion from the US Supreme Court in the Dobbs case earlier this week, this has far broader implication. Apparently, the tolerance that the left demands is truly a one-way street. Violence has become their answer to everything. This is what happens when leadership is missing or when leadership implies that violence is ok. In 2020, Governor Tony Evers basically looked the other way when violence erupted in Kenosha and Madison. That kind of non-response fosters what happened to us this morning, leaving Wisconsin citizens who disagree with his policies extremely vulnerable to similar violence,” said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action.

Gov. Tony Evers said his administration condemns violence and hatred “in all forms.”

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also condemned the act.

“At Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, the health and safety of patients and health center staff is our top priority. Our work to protect continued access to reproductive care is rooted in love. We condemn all forms of violence and hatred within our communities. We recognize this is an uncertain time for many of our patients. Planned Parenthood will continue to provide essential health care to those who come to us for care, in a safe and supportive environment – no matter what,” reads a statement from the organization.

Republican governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch called the perpetrators “hate-filled extremists.”

Fire was set to an anti-abortion organization's office in Madison and a threatening message was spraypainted outside

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