Police Are Investigating A Fire And Vandalism At An Anti-Abortion Group's Office

The damaged office belongs to Wisconsin Family Action, a group opposed to abortion rights and marriage equality, among other issues.

An interior of the office shows charred floors and walls, burned books, and a broken window covered up with wood

Authorities in Wisconsin are investigating a suspected arson attack Sunday at the offices of a conservative group opposed to abortion rights as the debate over reproductive rights intensifies following last week's leak from the Supreme Court.

Madison firefighters responded to the scene of the blaze shortly after 6 a.m. local time and were able to "promptly" extinguish the flames, according to the Madison Fire Department. No injuries were reported.

"Fire investigators believe this fire was intentionally set, and the incident is being investigated as an arson," fire department spokesperson Cynthia Schuster said.

The damaged office belongs to Wisconsin Family Action, a group opposed to abortion rights and marriage for same-sex couples, among other issues.

Photos from the scene showed damaged windows, charred walls, and graffiti on an exterior wall reading, "If abortions aren't safe then you aren't either." Another section of graffiti featured the circle A anarchist symbol, as well as the number 1312, a shorthand for "ACAB" or "All Cops Are Bastards."

Graffiti on an exterior wall reads "If abortions aren't safe then you aren't either"

WFA President Julaine Appling told BuzzFeed News the graffiti was a "very overt threat" that she suspected was "the signature of the perpetrators, who were very brazen and bold and wanted to let everyone know who had done this."

Madison Police Department spokesperson Stephanie Fryer said in a statement that officers and arson investigators were on the scene and working to determine the cause.

Police Chief Shon Barnes said the department had notified federal authorities and would work with them to investigate the arson.

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

Graffiti on an exterior walls shows the letter A in a circle, with the numbers 1 3 1 2

Appling told BuzzFeed News that as many as six people normally work in the office and that her workspace in particular had sustained the most damage.

She said she had been told by authorities that they suspected Mason jars had been used to make Molotov cocktails.

"The people who did this are showing exactly what they accuse us of being," Appling said. "This is intolerant.

"We need to shut down this kind of behavior. It's not helpful in any way, and it's not going to scare us," she said.

Earlier this week, WFA urged supporters to have "cautious optimism" but take a "wait and see" approach in response to the leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 abortion case Roe v. Wade.

"If the opinion holds as it is currently written, we will have reason and time to celebrate," Appling said Tuesday.

In Wisconsin, an 1849 law criminalizing nearly all abortions remains on the books but hasn't been in effect since Roe made abortion legal nationwide. If Roe is overturned, the state's attorney general has said he won't enforce the state law, but it's unclear whether other local officials will follow.

In response to the fire, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway told the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday she understood that people are angry and afraid about the potential Supreme Court decision, but called for any protests to be peaceful.

"Madison believes strongly in the right to free speech, but it must be exercised nonviolently by all sides in this increasingly contentious debate," the mayor said.

Rhodes-Conway, a Democrat, also noted to the newspaper that groups in favor of abortion rights have been victims in the past.

Abortion clinics have previously been the targets of arson, while providers have also come under attack, resulting in at least 11 deaths since 1993.

In 2015, three people were shot dead by a man who stormed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

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