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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Protests After Abortion Ruling May Be ‘Attractive Targets’ for Violent Extremists, Warns DHS Memo

"Both reproductive and family advocacy healthcare facilities likely will continue to remain primary targets for criminal incidents" for "weeks," says intel brief.

Protests in response to today’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade could present “attractive targets” for violent domestic extremists while facilities on either side of the abortion divide as well as faith-based institutions could be targeted for weeks to come, said a memo to law enforcement and stakeholders today from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

The number of protesters outside the Supreme Court swelled before and after today’s ruling was released. D.C. police are fully activated, with all officers expected to work extended shifts, through June 28. The department and D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management said in a statement that they are “closely monitoring the situation, and are actively coordinating and sharing information with our federal partners” while encouraging people to report suspicious activity and threats.

The multiagency intelligence brief released by DHS I&A assesses that “some domestic violent extremists (DVEs) will likely exploit the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade to intensify violence against a wide range of targets.”

“We expect violence could occur for weeks following the release, particularly as DVEs may be mobilized to respond to changes in state laws and ballot measures on abortion stemming from the decision,” the memo states. “We base this assessment on an observed increase in violent incidents across the United States following the unauthorized disclosure in May of a draft majority opinion on the case.”

“Federal and state government officials—including judges—and facilities probably are most at risk for violence in response to the decision. In late May, a network of loosely affiliated suspected violent extremists, known as ‘Jane’s Revenge’—which has been linked to arson attacks against the buildings of ideological opponents—shared a post online encouraging a ‘night of rage’ following the Supreme Court announcement, stating, ‘we need the state to feel our full wrath’ and ‘we need them to be afraid of us.’ An individual is now awaiting trial for a plot in June to kill a US Supreme Court Justice in response to the draft opinion. A separate incident in Michigan involved vandalism claimed by ‘Jane’s Revenge’ on a building that houses a US Representative’s campaign office and a pro-life advocacy group.”

“Jane’s Revenge,” the brief notes, is believed to be a reference to the Chicago-based organization “The Jane Collective” that provided abortions from 1969 until Roe legalized abortion in 1973. After a raid earlier that year, “The Jane Seven” were indicted by a grand jury yet the case was dropped after abortion became legal.

The memo stresses that expected protests could be seen as soft targets by violent extremists, noting that First Amendment-protected events “probably will be attractive targets for a range of DVEs to commit violence against ideological opponents.”

“On 22 June, an unidentified social media user posted content encouraging violence in response to the ‘night of rage’ and told followers to ‘prepare to defend’ themselves and ‘don’t lock and load either. Load then lock,’ according to US Capitol Police,” the brief states.

“Both reproductive and family advocacy healthcare facilities likely will continue to remain primary targets for criminal incidents, and violence could escalate against these facilities or personnel,” the memo continues. “Since May, at least three arson attacks targeting pregnancy resource centers in Oregon and New York and a family advocacy group’s headquarters in Wisconsin have been claimed by ‘Jane’s Revenge’. In May and June, suspected DVEs opposed to abortion rights conducted arson attacks targeting a reproductive healthcare facility in Wyoming and a vacant building that was formerly a reproductive healthcare facility in Washington. Also, in June, a suspected racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist posted online calling for attacks against abortion-related targets in reaction to ‘Jane’s Revenge’ activity.”

The unclassified brief adds that “faith-based organizations across the United States continue to report numerous criminal incidents against religious institutions connected to abortion rights.”

“We are aware of at least 11 incidents of vandalism threatening violence targeting religious facilities perceived as being opposed to abortion, and one threat to ‘bomb’ and ‘burn’ a church in New York,” the memo states. “These incidents of vandalism against faith-based organizations could indicate future targets of DVE attacks.”

The end of Roe means that abortion is expected to become illegal in half of the states, with some having already passed abortion bans that immediately take effect.

“The recent Supreme Court decisions will be a beacon for domestic terrorists across the country to promote violence, threaten democracy, and promote anti-government rhetoric,” former DHS Assistant Secretary Brian Harrell told HSToday. “Law enforcement and security organizations across the country should be prepared for local protests to become violent. These events will also be used by nation-states to fuel misinformation and disinformation across all media platforms.”

Earlier this month, a new National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin warned that “given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”

“In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets,” the bulletin stated. “These targets could include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.  Threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/anti-authority violent extremism.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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