May 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Two Molotov cocktails found in office of Wisconsin anti-abortion group, police say

protesters face off on abortion

An anti-abortion rights demonstrator confronts a group of abortion rights demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on May 4. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two Molotov cocktails were discovered during the investigation into a fire that ignited Sunday at an anti-abortion rights group's office in Madison, Wisconsin, Police chief Shon Barnes said Monday at a press conference.

The latest: Barnes also said that there are no suspects in custody and that the investigation is still ongoing as a case of arson.

  • The arson is not considered a terrorist incident, Barnes said.

What he said: “There is no room for hate or violence in Madison … or anywhere in our country," Barnes said.

  • “We are investigating the fruits of hate and violence in the form of an arson investigation where a specific non-profit group was targeted for their beliefs regarding the issue of abortion.”
  • “There is no place in Madison for any type of hate speech, any type of violence or any time of property damage to support any cause,” he said. “It doesn’t look good for your cause or our community.”

What happened: At about 6 a.m. on Sunday, a passerby noticed flames from the office building, Barnes said. Responders saw the smoke coming from a ground-level window at the building.

  • No injuries were reported.
  • Madison Fire Department put out the fire five minutes after arriving, Barnes said.

The fire took place at the office of Wisconsin Family Action, which advocates against abortion, same-sex marriage, gambling and more, according to its website.

  • The phrase "If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was graffitied on the outside of the building, per AP.

Two Molotov cocktails were found inside the building. The “accelerant” for the fire is still under investigation, Barnes said.

  • He added that more evidence is undergoing the "forensic process."
  • "It appears a specific non-profit that supports anti-abortion measures was targeted," Barnes said in the statement.

Zoom out: The incident comes a week after a leaked draft ruling revealed the Supreme Court is prepared to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. Barnes said that the Supreme Court leak brought more attention to the abortion rights issue.

What's next: Officers have been made aware of other organizations in the area that represent both sides of the issue in order to prevent another attack, Barnes said.

What they're saying: "Our department has and continues to support people being able to speak freely and openly about their beliefs," Barnes said earlier in a statement. "But we feel that any acts of violence, including the destruction of property, do not aid in any cause."

  • "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," he added.
  • “What you’re going to see here is a direct threat against us,” Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information throughout.

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