Abortion rights marches continue in Wisconsin, as police investigate arson at anti-abortion office
Updated at 4:33 p.m. CDT:
Police asked for the public's help Monday in tracking down those who vandalized and threw two Molotov cocktails into the office of a prominent Wisconsin anti-abortion lobbying group's office that was damaged by fire.
No one has been arrested and there are no suspects in custody in the fire that was discovered early Sunday morning when someone driving to Madison's nearby airport noticed flames coming from the office building, said Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes at a news conference.
The fire at the Wisconsin Family Action office came after two Catholic churches in Colorado, including one known for its annual anti-abortion display, were vandalized last week.
One Molotov cocktail thrown into the Wisconsin Family Action office failed to ignite and the investigation is ongoing as to whether the second one did, the police chief said. The message “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was spray-painted on the exterior of the building.
Madison Police & Fire are investigating possible arson at the Wisconsin Family Action offices on Madison’s north side. Marcus Aarsvold is on scene speaking with WFA employees and learning what happened @nbc15_madison— Gabriella Rusk (@GabriellaRusk) May 8, 2022
📷: @m_aarsvold pic.twitter.com/XwcpGH8Tgk
No one was hurt, but Barnes said had someone been in the office “it could have gone differently.”
Barnes said he was not aware of any threats to others, but he cautioned that the investigation could be lengthy. “I do anticipate we will be able to solve this but we want to take our time to be sure we do it correctly," he said.
Investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation. Barnes encouraged anyone who may have seen anything to contact police. Area businesses were also being contacted to see if they have any evidence or captured anything on surveillance cameras, he said.
The president of Wisconsin Family Action, Julaine Appling, claimed the attack was directly provoked by last week's leak of the draft opinion by the U.S Supreme Court that could lead to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion being overturned. 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 Gov. Tony Evers has condemned the violence.
The incident in Madison came during a weekend of more protest marches against the draft opinion — a draft that's left abortion rights supporters with varying degrees of optimism about keeping access to legal abortions in Wisconsin. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, an 1849 state law on the books could dramatically cut back abortion rights here, and possibly close the four Wisconsin clinics where abortions are performed.
After helping lead a peaceful march Saturday in Milwaukee, Carly Klein said she tries to be optimistic about preserving those rights.
"You have to be when you do this kind of work because it's a complex issue and not one that's going to be easy to keep fighting. But if we lose optimism and hope, we ultimately will lose that fight," Klein told WUWM.
But another Milwaukee marcher, Natasha Mansur said she's been fearing the loss of Roe v. Wade for six years. "Ever since November 2016, we elected Donald Trump and the fallout's going to go on for a long time, in my humble opinion," she said.
But Mansur said she felt camaraderie with the other marchers.
Planned Parenthood and other groups are planning a national day of action to preserve abortion rights this coming Saturday. Also, this Wednesday, the U.S. Senate is expected to take another vote on making abortion rights part of federal law. The measure isn't expected to pass, but may help make it clear to voters where this fall's Senate candidates stand on the issue.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) , who faces a challenge from several Democrats, has frequently criticized abortion rights.