Law enforcement officials brace for potential violence around SCOTUS draft opinion

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Law enforcement officials across the country are preparing for unrest in the wake of the Supreme Court’s anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade. On Wednesday, more than 150 officials nationwide joined a call to discuss concerns about growing threats in the wake of the news, including potential danger to Supreme Court justices.

The National Fusion Center Association, representing dozens of intelligence-sharing hubs around the country, hosted the call, which included state and local law enforcement officials along with officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The call focused on threats that have metastasized in the wake of POLITICO’s publication of an initial draft opinion that indicates the Supreme Court could overturn federal abortion protections, according to two people on the call who described it to POLITICO.

The officials’ concerns highlight just how tense the climate has become as the national conversation about abortion rights reaches new intensity. The same fusion center association convened a similar call bracing for extremist threats just a few days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Participants in Wednesday’s call raised concerns that protesters could clash with counter-protesters or face attacks from lone extremists. They did not focus on the ideological views of people involved in violent attacks or First Amendment-protected protesting.

But they did home in on the federal judiciary — including both the Supreme Court’s nine justices and the hundreds of federal judges around the country — as a potential increasing target of violence.

These concerns come as federal judges have faced skyrocketing threats in recent years, and as the Justice Department’s top watchdog has warned that the U.S. Marshals Service does not have the resources it needs to keep those judges safe.

The officials on the call didn’t talk about any specific threats, according to the two participants who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about a private discussion. Instead, they had a high-level talk focused on trends and patterns — including the possibility that adversarial foreign governments could capitalize on the national tension to try to fuel discord. Their goal was to maximize information-sharing on the topic among law enforcement agencies around the country, hoping to identify threat trends in real-time.

Mike Sena, the head of the fusion center association, declined to comment on the call. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment, and DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

This call isn’t the only instance of law enforcement officials bracing for threats connected to abortion rights. Yahoo! News detailed multiple law enforcement documents that showed concerns about violence before POLITICO broke the draft majority opinion. In one document the site reported on, the FBI detailed how abortion-related extremism can lead to violence.

“Since 1993, there have been 11 murders by pro-life extremists,” the guide said. “Pro-choice extremists have primarily used threats, harassment, and vandalism, but has not resulted in lethal violence.”

And on May 4, SITE Intelligence Group — a private organization that shares threat information with a host of law enforcement agencies — released a report detailing calls for violence targeted at people protesting the expected ruling.

“Users on far-right, pro-Trump forum ‘The Donald’ encouraged members to violently oppose pro-abortion protesters demonstrating against the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade,” reads the bulletin. “Reacting to the headline ‘Violence Breaks out at Pro-Abortion Protest After Democrat Politicians Call to ‘Fight,’' users made threats and called for police to harm protesters.”

Another bulletin, released May 5, detailed neo-Nazis’ response to the news.

“A neo-Nazi channel responding to the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade posted a previously circulated pro-life graphic calling to ‘bomb’ reproductive healthcare clinics and to ‘kill’ pro-choice individuals,” the bulletin said.

Rita Katz, the head of SITE Intelligence Group, told POLITICO that misogyny is prevalent on the violent far right.

“For far-right extremists, the focus on Roe v. Wade isn’t simply about religion or conventional debates about ‘when life starts,’” she said. “It's about the toxic resentment of feminism that unites the entire spectrum of these movements, from Neo-Nazis to QAnon.”

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