Top U.S. officials warned Americans Friday against resorting to violence following the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the constitutional right to abortion, which sparked emotional responses from those on both sides of the debate.
Abortion rights opponents outside the Supreme Court in Washington celebrated following Friday’s ruling, chanting “Goodbye, Roe!” to mark the court’s 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that established the right to an abortion nearly 50 years ago.
At the same time, groups of abortion rights supporters also gathered outside the court, chanting “My body, my choice,” while carrying signs reading “Overturn Roe? Hell no!” and “Rise up for abortion rights.”
Despite emotions running high among both groups, the demonstrations appeared peaceful, and President Joe Biden called on all Americans to keep it that way, both in Washington and across the country.
“No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable,” Biden said in an address to the nation in which he also accused the Supreme Court of taking away a fundamental right and “literally taking America back 150 years.”
“We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale,” Biden added. “Keep all protests peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.”
Earlier, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also warned Americans against resorting to violence in reaction to the court’s ruling.
“Peacefully expressing a view is protected by the First Amendment,” Garland said in a statement. “Violence and threats of violence are not. The Justice Department will not tolerate such acts.”
U.S. officials and law enforcement agencies have been bracing for weeks for potential fallout from the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, which was first leaked in early May.
“We have been working closely with our law enforcement partners in order to prepare for demonstrations related to the Supreme Court,” the U.S. Capitol Police, which is responsible for security for Congress and the Capitol, told VOA in an email Friday.
U.S. homeland security officials have also cited the ruling as a key factor in an ever more dangerous and volatile threat environment.
“Individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious and reproductive health care personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies,” the Department of Homeland Security warned in its latest bulletin, issued this month.
There have also been concerns about the safety of the Supreme Court’s nine justices. The Justice Department announced round-the-clock security details for all justices last month.
A 26-year-old California man, Nicholas John Roske, was arrested June 8 outside the home of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Police said Roske was carrying a gun, ammunition, a knife and other items, and that he said he was planning to kill himself and Kavanaugh. Roske has been charged with attempted murder.