Law enforcement officials in Washington, DC, are bracing for potential security risks posed by reactions to the leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade.
An alert generated Thursday by US Capitol Police and reviewed by CNN warned about far-right calls for violence against a religious group planning an upcoming protest in support of abortion rights at the court.
Late Wednesday night, teams began installing an 8-foot-tall, non-scalable fence around parts of the Supreme Court building, and Thursday night, crews set up concrete Jersey barriers blocking the street in front of the court – a sign that officials are worried that protests, which have so far been peaceful, could turn less so.
Law enforcement officials from the National Fusion Center Association hosted a call Wednesday with roughly 150 participants to alert state and local partners about demonstrations nationwide that have resulted in some physical confrontations, other possible demonstrations and the uptick of social media chatter, according to sources familiar with the call.
The call, first reported by Politico, highlights the proactive effort and coordination among law enforcement nationwide following the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, which exposed how quickly social media chatter can morph into an attack.
Multiple sources told CNN the recent developments could embolden violent extremists to engage in attacks or other criminal activity targeting abortion clinic staff, patients or clinic facilities.
One law enforcement source added that government officials – including the nine justices and their staffs – or abortion-related advocacy groups and abortion-related First Amendment-protected events could be targets for violence.
The source also said social media chatter against the justices and members of Congress is being tracked – work that has become standard practice in an era of heightened use of social media to express extremist ideas.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced a bill this week to expand Supreme Court Police authority to include security for the justices’ immediate families and other members of the Supreme Court, citing concern over the hyper-politicized landscape. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Delaware) signed on to co-sponsor the bill Friday.
Concern about the justices’ security is just the latest in an on-going conversation about how to protect members of the judiciary, who oversee high-profile, dangerous cases but lack individual security teams.
CNN previously reported the watchdog for the US Marshals Service found in a June 2021 report that the agency “does not have the resources or proactive threat detection capabilities that the USMS has determined it needs to meet its protective service obligations for USMS-protected persons, including judges.”
The US Marshals Service protects roughly 2,700 judges nationwide, and notes that threats or inappropriate contacts have spiked in recent years. The inspector general report noted the agency responded to more than 4,200 threats in 2020, up 81% from 2016.
The DC Metropolitan Police Department and US Capitol Police have added officers to the area since the leaked opinion surfaced.