Prominent pro-life Congressman Chris Smith recently was the victim of a credible death threat, New Jersey authorities announced this week.
Asbury Park Press reports police arrested Dereal Finklin, 43, and charged him with terroristic threats Saturday after he allegedly threatened to kill the pro-life Congressman on social media.
Finklin is a registered Democrat in East Orange, New Jersey, according to the report.
A New Jersey Republican, Smith is the latest in a growing line of pro-life lawmakers who have been targets of threats and violence. In June, a Florida man who volunteers at Planned Parenthood was arrested after he allegedly threatened to kill pro-life U.S. Rep. Brian Mast’s children.
Smith said he and his staff have been the targets of vandalism and other harassment in the past several years. He pointed to his pro-life stance as a possible reason for the harassment.
The local news reports:
In an interview with the Asbury Park Press on Wednesday, Smith said the threat –which he confirmed was a death threat – was just the latest incident in a pattern of abuse and harassment that he and his staff have endured over the past five years, as the political discourse in the United States has grown more polarized.
The congressman has installed electronic security and surveillance systems at his office and established new safety protocols for his staff, he said. Yet the tires on his personal car have been slashed seven times in as many months, he said.
Smith said he’s convinced there is a movement underway to intimidate some members of Congress into retiring if their political opposition believes they cannot be defeated fairly at the polls.
Authorities declined to provide more details about the matter.
“Not much we can say at this time … other than the story is true,” said Christopher Swendeman, a spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
Pro-life lawmakers and their families are facing increasing threats and violence.
During practice for a Congressional baseball game last year, pro-life U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and two others were shot by a left-wing activist in Virginia.
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Earlier in 2017, a Texas state lawmaker Tony Tinderholt and his family also were put under state protection after he received multiple death threats related to a bill he introduced to ban abortions. A Missouri pro-life lawmaker also received a death threat while he led an investigation into the abortion giant Planned Parenthood in 2015.
These threats and violence have not been limited to high profile pro-life leaders. Volunteer sidewalk counselors, students and other grassroots pro-life advocates also have been targeted.
In two separate incidents in 2017, men allegedly threatened to kill pro-life advocates outside abortion facilities in California and Florida. And violent threats against a California pro-life leader prompted him to cancel a pro-life rally.
Then, in December, a 15-year-old girl was punched in the face and knocked to the ground outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Roanoke, Virginia. The assault was captured on video.
In late October, pro-life advocates in Dallas, Texas called a bomb squad after they found a suspicious package near their 40 Days for Life site. WFAA News 8 reports the Dallas Police Department later determined that the suspicious package was a hoax, quite possibly meant to scare pro-life advocates who peacefully pray outside a nearby abortion clinic.
Students for Life has documented more than 40 incidents of vandalism alone in the past five years against its pro-life students groups. An interactive map displays the places where its clubs have been victims of vandalism.