How Do We Respond to Threats of Violence?

One of the windows broken at Pro-Life Action League staffer John Jansen's home, January 28

One of the windows broken at Pro-Life Action League staffer John Jansen’s home, January 2016

Three years ago this week, shortly after I’d left for my work, my wife Jocelyn went downstairs to the basement of our home and noticed that it was unusually cold.

She then realized that someone had thrown chunks of cinder block through two of our basement windows, one of which was, rather ironically, wrapped inside a black plastic bag with the words, “Thank you.”

Jocelyn immediately called the police to report the incident, and when an officer arrived at our house, one of the first questions he asked was, “Is somebody mad at you?” To which she replied, “Well, my husband works for a pro-life organization.”

Which is to say: “Yes.”

The officer was baffled as to why someone would bother to wrap one of them in a plastic bag. And if one, then why not the other one, too?

Broken window at Scheidler's house

Broken window in the front of Joe and Ann Scheidler’s Chicago home [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

My first thought was that this incident was a lot like what had happened to Pro-Life Action League founders Joe and Ann Scheidler when their house was vandalized in 2010. In their case, vandals wrapped a chunk of asphalt in a plastic bag and threw it through their living room window, along with a note saying, “We are crazy feminist[s] … who will destroy your sexist ideas.”

In our case, however, there was no note. So while we obviously had a hunch that our house was targeted specifically because of my work at the Pro-Life Action League, there was no way to be certain. It could have simply been a random act of vandalism, or else the perpetrators could have intended to hit another house but hit ours by mistake.

But when I found out that my longtime pro-life friend Jill “Worst Person in the World” Stanek also had a chunk of cinder block thrown through the front window of her home — less than 30 miles away from our home near Chicago — it became clear that the attack on our house was no fluke.

In her case, the chunk of cinder block thrown through her front window was also wrapped in a plastic bag, and a note was included in hers that read, “Quit the pro-life bulls***.”

Now is not the time to retreat

This incident has been on my mind in the wake of countless threats of violence leveled against students at Covington Catholic High School following the “smile seen ’round the world” after the March for Life in Washington, DC last week.  In an article titled, “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story,” Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan wrote, “The full video reveals that these kids had wandered into a Tom Wolfe novel and had no idea how to get out of it” — possibly the single most accurate description of the bizarre events what went down near the Lincoln Memorial.

Earlier this week, after all hell had broken loose and the Internet had lost its mind, I started seeing friends of mine saying that they weren’t sure if they would ever allow their kids to go to the March for Life again.

Whoa. That concerned me.

I pointed out that even if their kids didn’t go to another March for Life, perhaps a similar incident may play out next year at the March (or at some other pro-life event, somewhere) and their kids might still be misidentified and subsequently doxxed, threatened, and all the rest — which is exactly what happened last weekend to a kid named Michael Hodge:

Now, taking a few steps back, it’s not entirely surprising that Joe and Ann Scheidler’s home would be attacked.  Joe, after all, has been a leader in the pro-life movement since the 1970s and was found to be a federal racketeer in federal court in 1998–until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 and then again in 2006 that uh, no, he’s not.

It’s perhaps a bit more surprising, yet by no means entirely, that our family’s home would be attacked, since I’m not in a position of leadership. In any case, the attacks on the Scheidlers’ home and on our home are evidence that threats of violence and vandalism have to be taken very seriously, because sometimes criminal acts like these are, in fact, carried out.

In the past week, however, we’ve seen that no one — regardless of age or whether they even attended a pro-life event in the first place — is immune from these threats.

But now is not the time to retreat from pro-life activism. If we do, then the forces of intimidation win. On the contrary, now is the time to redouble our efforts and become more active in the fight against abortion, not less. And that goes for our kids, too.

Clearly, we as parents have to exercise prudence in determining when and to what extent we will allow our children to be involved in pro-life activities. At the same time, we also have exercise courage, and encourage our children to do the same in the face of what we’re up against.

I can only speak from firsthand experience: Having your family’s home attacked is unsettling, but at the end of the day, it’s a small price to pay for the sake of our unborn brothers and sisters.

What will our family be subject to in the future? I don’t know. What will your family be subject to in the future? I don’t know.

But I do know that now is not the time to retreat.

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