Madison’s Police Chief has come under fire over his statement on Sunday’s firebombing that targeted the office of a pro-life nonprofit. In an official statement on the attack, Chief Shon Barnes addressed concerns from “members of the community” over the leaked SCOTUS Roe v. Wade opinion in the very first line.
“The Madison Police Department understands members of our community are feeling deep emotions due to the recent news involving the United States Supreme Court,” wrote Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes in a statement.
“Early Sunday morning, our team began investigating a suspicious fire inside an office building on the city’s north side,” the statement continues. “It appears a specific non-profit that supports anti-abortion measures was targeted. Our department has and continues to support people being able to speak freely and openly about their beliefs. But we feel that any acts of violence, including the destruction of property, do not aid in any cause.”
Barnes’ statement has received backlash for addressing the political grievances of the attacker, as well as the lack of hard condemnation.
“Do you think the Police Chief would have said this if someone did this to a Planned Parenthood building?!? They’d be out of control,” wrote former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a tweet. “What a double standard. Violence is violence and it should condemned, period.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) called the Madison Police Chief’s response “shameful” in a tweet of his own. “There should be zero excuses or sympathy for violent arsonists,” Banks wrote. “Shameful response!”
Do you think the Police Chief would have said this if someone did this to a Planned Parenthood building?!? They’d be out of control. What a double standard. Violence is violence and it should condemned, period. https://t.co/iQ12jKi3d6
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) May 9, 2022
There should be zero excuses or sympathy for violent arsonists.
Shameful response! https://t.co/tSOkWt9rn7
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) May 9, 2022
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers condemned “violence and hatred in all forms, including the actions at Wisconsin Family Action in Madison” in a statement, though he made note of his strong support for abortion.
“We will work against overturning Roe and attacks on reproductive rights by leading with empathy and compassion,” Evers said. “We will defend what we believe in with our words and our voices — in the streets, in halls of government, and at the ballot box.”
As of Monday evening, no arrests have been made in connection with the attack on Wisconsin Family Action. Police recovered what is believed to have been a Molotov cocktail that was thrown through a smashed window. The Molotov failed to ignite, however, leading law enforcement to believe that someone started the fire from the inside.
Madison fire crews were dispatched to the scene after a passerby noticed smoke coming from the building. The flames damaged furniture and books, though the fire was doused before it spread to the rest of the building. No injuries were reported.
The exterior of the building was also spray-painted with the words “if abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”
BREAKING: Somebody vandalized and allegedly threw Molotov cocktails into Wisconsin Family Action’s — an anti-abortion rights group — Madison office, writing w/ graffiti, “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”
Story TK pic.twitter.com/6Wfnyeh9hQ
— Alexander Shur (@AlexanderShur) May 8, 2022
Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes is asking for the public’s help to find those responsible. Federal law enforcement, including the FBI, is assisting with the investigation.