A Massachusetts woman was arrested on Thursday and charged with making a bomb hoax against Boston Children’s Hospital following a campaign led by the right-wing Libs of TikTok account against medical workers who provide care to transgender children.
Authorities said Catherine Leavy was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday morning at her home in Westfield. She appeared before a judge on Thursday afternoon to face one count of making a false telephonic bomb threat.
“The alleged conduct is disturbing, to say the least,” Rachael Rollins, the US attorney for Massachusetts, told reporters at a press conference to announce the arrest and charges. “Healthcare providers who support and offer care to gender-diverse and transgender individuals and their families deserve to do so without fear.”
Police were first called to Boston Children’s on Aug. 30 following bomb threats made over the phone. A similar threat was made again on Sep. 9. No explosive devices were found after either call.
FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta said there have been well over a dozen threats made against the hospital.
In one Aug. 30 threat, a caller said, “There is a bomb on the way to the hospital. You better evacuate everybody, you sickos."
The threat prompted officials to place the area on lockdown while a bomb squad was dispatched.
Investigators said they soon linked a threat to a T-Mobile account owned by Leavy.
When she was interviewed on Thursday, she initially denied making the threats, but began expressing disapproval of the hospital and then subsequently admitted, authorities said in an affidavit.
Leavy will be held in jail overnight pending a bond hearing on Friday. It was not immediately clear if she had a defense attorney.
The arrest comes in the wake of a weekslong, coordinated online anti-LGBTQ campaign led most prominently by Libs of TikTok.
The Twitter account run by former Brooklyn real estate agent Chaya Raichik has fueled a wave of far-right conspiracies against LGBTQ teachers and librarians in recent months, whom she has called “groomers.” The account, which has 1.3 million followers, also recently began naming multiple children’s hospitals that provide trans children with gender-affirming care. Among them was the Boston facility, which she falsely claimed performed hysterectomies on children.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that providing gender-affirming care to gender-diverse children — including allowing them to socially transition as well as access puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones — improves their mental health and reduces suicide risks. In the US, medical guidelines also stipulate that genital surgeries are only performed on patients over 18; this is the practice at Boston Children’s.
The Libs of TikTok tweets about hospitals reportedly caused internal concern among Twitter employees, according to the Washington Post, with fears they could spark violence.
Reacting to Thursday’s charges against Leavy, Raichik tweeted from her Libs of TikTok account, “This is great news. Threats of violence should always be taken seriously.”
In May, FBI agents arrested a California man who had threatened to kill a staff member of a Wisconsin school district that was shamed by Libs of TikTok. District officials had opened a Title IX investigation into three eighth-graders who bullied a transgender student by refusing to use their pronouns.
The investigation was later closed by the school board after officials said they had “issued clear directives and expectations to all students involved in this matter for the purpose of preventing bullying and harassment and ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for all of our students.”