The Attack

Some days are just emblazoned in our memories.

Some days are just emblazoned in our memories. One of those days for me (Julaine Appling, then president of WFA) is May 8th, 2022, Mother’s Day. I was at church early that morning to help get ready for a ladies’ brunch happening at 9 a.m. At 7:45 or so, I received a call from one of our team members telling me I needed to immediately call the folks who manage our office building because we had had a “break-in.” I quickly dialed building management and was told we’d had more than a break-in. I was told we had been firebombed and had a fire started in our office and that graffiti had been written on two of the building’s outside walls near our office. I immediately left church with another one of our team members, with a quick stop by my home, only to find that the Watertown police were looking for me because the Madison police hadn’t been able to locate me. After verifying who I was, I was told to get to Madison as soon as possible and to call the Madison Police Department en route. I did so.

As we drove by the front of the building at the office, I saw the message on one wall: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.” On another wall was what we later learned were anarchist and anti-law enforcement symbols. The reason we were attacked was unmistakable.

We entered the building to an acrid odor and found it came from our office, all the way at the end of the hall—at least 150 feet away. Walking into the office, we found the receptionist area a mess from firefighters who had arrived to put out the fire. Then I saw that my personal office had been the point of the attack. Windows broken, glass everywhere, furniture destroyed, books burned, a segment of wall burned away, disarray everywhere—and horrible air, even to the point of making it hard to breathe. Later I’d learn that the air in my office was not just bad, it was truly toxic and no one should have been in there! Meanwhile, I’d given countless interviews standing or sitting in the middle of the destruction for at least two days!

Our Response

Leftist Attacks Won’t Intimidate the Pro-Life Movement

By Julaine Appling, then-president of WFA

Early Sunday morning on Mother’s day, a leftist anarchist group attacked our office in Madison, Wis. They broke windows and threw two Molotov cocktails into the office, lighting a fire. Making their views abundantly clear, the arsonists graffitied the outside of the building with the message, “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”

God was watching over us that morning because thankfully, no one was in the office at the time. But imagine if anyone had been. They would have been seriously injured. Additionally, one of the Molotov cocktails did not ignite — an error on the attacker’s part that saved our building. Otherwise, it likely would have burned to the ground.

This act of violence was intended to terrify us into silence, to make us afraid to go to work, to go home, to convene in public with like-minded family, friends, and colleagues. Even worse, to terrify us (all of us who share these opinions) enough to alter our core beliefs and values. Threats like this, right here at home in America. Because I have a different opinion from abortion activists and the violent Left. Because I proudly lead Wisconsin Family Action, an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the values of marriage, family, life, and religious liberty.

Over the past 36 years, Wisconsin Family Action and its sister organization Wisconsin Family Council have effectively informed citizens about legislative issues, advocated on critical policy issues affecting the family, and prepared citizens for elections, all as the law provides.

Sadly, the cost of dedicating your life’s work to your beliefs — at least if you are a conservative — is to be attacked, injured, or worse.

This is the entire goal of the Left: to silence, by any means possible, those who stand in its way. Destroy small businesses, churches, and organizations like Wisconsin Family Action because of our beliefs.

The Hypocrisy Is Staggering.

The hypocrisy is staggering. Liberals demand tolerance, but only if you agree with their policies. If you disagree with them, then violence is the answer. If you disagree with them, as the arsonists in the attack on my office stated, “you aren’t safe.”

Just look at the violent protests taking place at Supreme Court justices’ homes. The Left’s goal in these protests? To make it clear to the justices not only that they aren’t safe, but also that neither are their families. Federal law prohibits picketing at any judge’s residence, yet nothing is being done to stop the picketing and intimidation. Because threatening violence and scaring Supreme Court justices to influence their vote is an acceptable tactic to the Left.

And liberals have made it clear this is just the beginning.

The group responsible for the attack on our office just announced that every pro-life organization in the country could be attacked next. That the assault on Wisconsin Family Action was just “the first of many.”

How Did America Get To This Point?

How did America get to this point? Liberal leadership.

This is what happens when leadership is missing or when leadership implies that violence is an acceptable tactic to employ. In 2020, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers basically looked the other way when violence erupted in Kenosha and Madison. That kind of nonresponse fosters attacks like the one against Wisconsin Family Action, leaving Wisconsin citizens who disagree with his policies extremely vulnerable to similar violence.

In fact, Governor Evers’s initial response to the attack on Wisconsin Family Action said nothing about demanding a full investigation and criminal prosecution. Though he mentioned us, he condemned “violence and hatred in all its forms,” then told his supporters he’d keep supporting abortion.

The Violence Needs To Stop

But let me be clear: The violence needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

We cannot deal with political disagreements in this country by resorting to violence. Just because liberals don’t get their way doesn’t give them license to threaten bodily harm or to burn and destroy property.

We cannot deal with political disagreements in this country by resorting to acts of lawless violence. One of America’s best attributes is her freedom of speech, but that freedom doesn’t encompass a license to those of the discord to threaten bodily harm or to burn and destroy property.

We Will Not Back Down

But did the attack intimidate us? No. It strengthened our resolve. We will repair our offices, remain on the job, and build an even stronger grassroots effort. We will continue to work every day to give a voice to the voiceless and stand up for what’s right.

We will not back down. Too much is at stake.

The Aftermath

The day of the attack, FBI agents were in the office…

The day of the attack, FBI agents were in the office, along with an ATF agent, and at least two Madison Police Department officers—one a detective. When they left with physical evidence late that afternoon, they told me (Julaine Appling, then president of WFA) that work on the case would begin immediately, but it might take several months for anything of significance to happen. That proved to be true. It wasn’t until March of this year, that I was told that an arrest in our case was imminent—thanks to graffiti that had been written on a sidewalk near the state capitol—in a handwriting style that matched the one used on our walls. After several weeks of work, law enforcement recovered a half-eaten burrito left by the suspect and extracted DNA from the refuse. That DNA matched one set of DNA taken from the physical evidence gathered at my office. Shortly thereafter, police arrested Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury in Boston getting ready to board a plane to Guatemala, using a one-way ticket. Mr. Roychowdhury was charged with attempting to cause damage through the use of fire or an explosive device and was eventually extradited to Wisconsin, where he was put first in jail and then in a federal prison.

On December 1, 2023, Mr. Roychowdhury pled guilty to the charges. On April 10, 2024, the defendant was sentenced to 7.5 years in a federal prison. The federal charges required a minimum of five years and a maximum of twenty years. Wisconsin Family Action president emeritus Julaine Appling and President Christine File both submitted written Victim Impact Statements and were allowed time to speak during the sentencing hearing.

Christine File commented regarding the defendant’s sentence, “We are disappointed. The court missed an opportunity to strengthen the protection of constitutional rights like free speech and free exercise, rights that have themselves been under assault in recent years. The defendant’s act of domestic terrorism to threaten our people, our families and friends, our neighbors, and our greater pro-life community is unconscionable.  Ultimately, the defendant—and others who attacked pro-life groups they disagree with—attacked our civil society and the constitutional rights foundational to it.

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