Police are asking for the public's help to find the person who threw Molotov cocktails through the window of a Madison-based anti-abortion group, started a fire and spray-painted graffiti there.
Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said police have not arrested anyone and that the investigation into the vandalism would include searches for eyewitness or digital evidence. At a press briefing in Madison on Monday afternoon, Barnes said he's asking the public to call if they have any information: 608-266-6014.
"There's no place in Madison for any type of hate speech, for any type of violence, for any type of property destruction," Barnes said. "It doesn't look good for your cause. It doesn't look good for our community."
The vandalism of the offices of Wisconsin Family Action, a socially conservative activist group, came just days after the release of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.
The windows at Wisconsin Family Action were broken and the message, "If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either" was spray-painted on the building’s exterior.
At the Monday briefing, Barnes said he expects that police will find the culprit, but "we want to take our time and make sure we do it correctly."
As a precaution, Barnes said Madison Police stepped up their protective surveillance of pro-abortion and anti-abortion groups in the area but do not know of any other threats at this time and are not investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.
Representatives from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as well as the FBI also attended the briefing, underscoring the potential for federal charges. Police declined to say, however, whether federal charges were likely.
Barnes also addressed what he called "conspiracy theories" online that the fire could have been set by an anti-abortion activist posing as a supporter of abortion rights.
"I have no indication that this was an inside job," Barnes said. "I have no information that that's true at all."
Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling spoke with reporters on Sunday at her damaged office building.
"There’s nothing we have done to warrant this," Appling said. "We ought to be able to take different sides on issues without fearing for our lives. Had anybody been in the office, they would have, at a minimum, been hurt."
According to Madison police, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the building but did not ignite and a separate fire was lit in response. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene shortly after 6 a.m. when flames were seen coming from the building. The fire was quickly put out and there were no reported injuries.
Gov. Tony Evers condemned the action in a Tweet on Sunday.
"We condemn violence and hatred in all forms, including the actions at Wisconsin Family Action in Madison last night," Evers said. "We reject violence against any person for disagreeing with another’s view. Violence is not the way forward. Hurting others is never the answer."
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The attack has drawn intense criticism from public officials across the political spectrum.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said, "This attack is abhorrent and should be condemned by all."
Democratic state Attorney General Josh Kaul responded by calling for a full investigation of the incident.
"This is disgraceful and unacceptable," Kaul said. “Whoever is responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Republican candidates for governor condemned the attack more broadly.
"The attack on Wisconsin Family Action has no place in our Democracy," said construction executive Tim Michels.
Kevin Nicholson called the incident "disgusting behavior from the left."
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said the attack was terrifying.
"The radicals are trying to stop us but they know we won’t be intimidated from defending life," Kleefisch tweeted.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also denounced the attack Sunday, tweeting, "Our work to protect continued access to reproductive care is rooted in love. We condemn all forms of violence and hatred within our communities."
The incident comes a day after rallies were held in Madison and Milwaukee to protest the leaked draft opinion, first reported by Politico last week, that would overturn Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years after it was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Without this constitutional protection, states have the power to decide their own abortion laws. In Wisconsin, this would mean reverting to an 1849 law banning abortion.
Editor's note: This story will be updated. WPR's Shawn Johnson contributed reporting