Law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., are bracing for potential security risks posed by reactions to the leaked Supreme Court majority draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade.
An alert generated Thursday by US Capitol police and reviewed by CNN warned of far-right calls for violence against a religious group planning an upcoming abortion rights protest outside the court.
Late Wednesday evening, crews began installing an 8-foot-tall non-scalable fence around parts of the Supreme Court building, and Thursday evening, crews installed Jersey concrete barriers blocking the street in front of the court – a sign that officials are concerned that the protests, which have so far been peaceful, may be less so.
National Fusion Center Association law enforcement officials held a call Wednesday with about 150 attendees to alert state and local partners to nationwide protests that have resulted in physical clashes, other possible protests and the rise in social media chatter, according to sources familiar with the call.
The call, reported for the first time by Politico, highlights the proactive effort and coordination of law enforcement nationwide in the wake of the United States Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, which revealed how quickly the chatter on social media can turn into an attack.
Several sources told CNN that recent developments could encourage violent extremists to engage in attacks or other criminal activity targeting abortion clinic staff, patients or facilities.
A law enforcement source added that government officials — including the nine justices and their staff — or abortion-related advocacy groups and abortion-related First Amendment-protected events could be the target of violence.
The source also said social media chatter against judges and members of Congress is being tracked – work that has become common practice in a time of increased use of social media to express extremist ideas.
Concern over the safety of judges is just the latest in an ongoing conversation about how to protect members of the judiciary, who oversee high-profile and dangerous cases but lack individual security teams.
CNN previously reported that the US Marshals Service watchdog found in a June 2021 report that the agency “does not have the proactive threat detection resources or capabilities that the USMS has determined it has. needed to fulfill protective service obligations for USMS protected persons, including judges.
The US Marshals Service protects about 2,700 judges nationwide and notes that threats or inappropriate contact have increased in recent years. The inspector general’s report noted that the agency responded to more than 4,200 threats in 2020, up 81% from 2016.
The DC Metropolitan Police Department and the United States Capitol Police have added officers in the area since the leaked opinion surfaced.