Police evacuated people from a pro-life rally because of a possible bomb threat Wednesday in Rochester, Minnesota.
Students for Life of America told LifeNews that police arrested a man after pro-lifers saw him dump a suspicious package in the middle of the theater where they were holding their rally at Rochester Community and Technical College.
Police eventually arrested Samuel VanderWiel, 19, of Rochester, for the alleged bomb scare, the Post Bulletin reports. He may face charges of felony terrorist threats, misdemeanor fifth-degree assault, disorderly conduct and public nuisance.
Officials suspect VanderWiel of making a stink bomb in a water bottle and then leaving it in the theater. Authorities said the bottle contained ammonia and another chemical that created a noxious sulfide gas. They said three people in the room reported headaches and chest irritations. Police said VanderWiel allegedly also planned to throw eggs at a display and tried to recruit others to help disrupt the pro-life event.
The College Fix reports VanderWiel was not a student at the community college. He also reportedly told police that “he did not agree with the philosophies of the pro-life participants.”
On Wednesday, Students for Life and 40 Days for Life hosted the event in Rochester to kick off their fall pro-life campaign.
About 7:30 p.m., someone saw an “agitated” man drop a package that looked like a bomb in the middle of the floor and then quickly leave the theater, according to the pro-life organization.
Students for Life Regional Coordinator Noah Maldonado, who was speaking at the time, said the man looked “very agitated” and reportedly had been seen “mixing chemicals together in his backpack” before dropping the package.
“Many members of the audience were disturbed by the erratic behavior and reported the smell of ammonia,” Maldonado said. “Not long after that, the security on campus interrupted my speech to evacuate the building, indicate that there was a mysterious package in the center aisle, and everyone needed to quickly exit the theater.”
He said there were about 85 people in the room at the time.
KIMT 3 News reports local authorities said the package contained a liquid, possibly a mixture of ammonia and water; however, they are still investigating.
A statement from the Rochester Fire Department indicates they have a suspect in custody.
“Three patients with symptoms including headache and chest irritation were located and evaluated,” according to the fire department. “None were transported by ambulance. RFD crews entered the theatre wearing SCBA and assessed the container and air quality with handheld monitors. The container was a water bottle with a small amount of liquid inside. Crews received a slight reading of ammonia on their monitors.”
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The college alerted students to the possible threat in a post on its Facebook page: “Earlier this evening [Rochester Police Department] responded to a situation in the Hill Theatre involving a potentially dangerous individual. Guests of the outside rental event were evacuated, no injuries were reported, and RPD continues to lead the investigation into the incident.”
Hawkins urged pro-life advocates who are religious to pray for pro-life students and leaders as the new school year begins.
“Last year we saw an incredible increase in violence, which is the sad state of our national dialogue today,” she said. “Frankly, we believe it will get worse this year, and we are making plans to protect both student free speech rights and those who stand for them.”
“The Pro-Life Generation will not be silenced or intimidated,” SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said. “This is not the kind of back-to-school story anyone hopes for, but no matter the opposition, Students for Life will bring our message of hope to campuses in all 50 states.”
The news is just the latest in growing reports of threats, harassment, vandalism and other incidents targeting pro-life advocates for their peaceful, life-saving work.
Earlier this year, Students for Life reported more than 50 pro-life student displays were vandalized in the past school year, including a pro-life banner that was set on fire inside a student building in Washington state.
LifeNews.com also has documented an alarming uptick in reports of vandalism, harassment, threats and other incidents targeting pro-lifers.
Here is the complete list:
- Tennessee – Videos: Abortion Activists Kick, Shove Pro-Lifers; Mock Infertile Couple
- Switzerland – Police: Abortion Activists Attack Officers, Throw Burning Objects during March for Life (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation)
- El Salvador – Abortion Activists Throw Eggs, Red Paint on Attorney General’s Office (NBC News)
- Pro-Life Across America: More Than A Dozen Pro-Life Billboards Vandalized This Year – And It’s Only August
- Chicago – Pro-life Billboard Vandalized with Pro-Abortion Slogan Painted over Baby’s Face (Pro-life Action League)
- Washington, D.C. – Top Google Employee Allegedly Punches Pro-Lifer Repeatedly outside Planned Parenthood
- Texas – Pregnancy Center Vandalized for Second Time This Year (Christian Post)
- Australia – Police Charge Cyclist for Allegedly Spitting Directly in Pro-Life Protester’s Face
- Australia – Pro-Life MPs Receive Death Threats After Voting Against Radical Pro-Abortion Bill
- England – Christian Family’s Window Smashed after Displaying Pro-Life Poster (UK Metro)
- Illinois – Chicago Pregnancy Center’s Mobile Van Vandalized, Tires Slashed
- Washington, D.C. – Man who Mocked, Threatened to Shoot Pro-Lifers at D.C. Planned Parenthood Goes Free (Live Action News)
- England – Scottish MP Receives Threats after Voting Against Pro-Abortion Bill (News Letter)
- North Carolina – Pregnancy Center Van Vandalized with Pro-Abortion Graffiti
- Wisconsin – Woman Arrested for Allegedly Vandalizing Pro-Life Display, Pushing Pro-Life Advocate (Created Equal)
- Texas – Anarchist Group Threatens to Dox Students who Join Conservative Pro-Life Groups (College Fix)
- Canada – Canadian Movie Theater Cancels “Unplanned” After Abortion Activists Threaten Violence, Catholic Herald Reports 2 Death Threats
- Canada – “Unplanned” Movie Premiers in Theaters Across Canada Despite Censorship and Pro-Abortion Threats
- North Carolina – Abortion Activists Arrested at City Council Meeting about Ordinance Restricting Free Speech (Charlotte Observer)
- Washington state – Video: Person Caught Stealing Crosses from Pro-Life Display (Students for Life)
- Ireland – Pro-Life Student Receives Death Threat after Writing Column Defending the Unborn (The Irish Catholic)
- Alabama – Pro-Life Sidewalk Counselors: Driver Tried to Hit Us outside Abortion Clinic (Live Action)
- Massachusetts – Abortion Activists Arrested After Allegedly Throwing Urine on Pro-Life Speaker
- Illinois – Pro-Life College Student Receives Death Threats for Proposing Cuts to Abortion Funding (Fox News)
- Missouri – Abortion Activists Arrested at Protest Demanding Pro-Life Governor Keep Dangerous Abortion Clinic Open (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- Florida – Video: Student Wrecks Pro-Life Display at University of Central Florida (Created Equal)
- Alabama – Abortion Advocates Allegedly Threatened to Rape Pro-Life Legislator’s Wife After He Voted for Abortion Ban
- Mississippi – Pro-Life Advocate Hit with Cane, Pushed at Pro-Abortion Rally
- Ohio – Abortion Activists Spit on Pro-Life Woman, Threaten Rape (Created Equal)
- Ohio – Abortion Activist: Pro-Life Advocates “Deserve To Be Shot” (Created Equal)
- Washington, D.C. – Student: Abortion Activists Pushed, Threatened Him at National Protest (Breitbart)
- New Jersey – Student Pro-Life Display Vandalized, Signs Stolen (The Signal, College of New Jersey)
- Pennsylvania – Catholic Church Vandalized with Pro-Abortion Slogan
- Abortion Activists Threaten to Kill, Rape Wife and Daughter of Pro-Life Writer Matt Walsh
- Michigan – Pro-Life Office Vandalized after Lawmakers Pass Bill to Protect Unborn Babies
- North Carolina – Student Arrested for Stealing Sign from Pro-Life Advocates on Campus
- Alabama — Abortion Activist Caught on Camera Assaulting Pro-Life Woman, Punching Her Repeatedly
- California – Video: Student Destroys Pro-Life Display on Campus (Students for Life)
- Washington state – Police Investigating Arson after Pro-Life Display Set on Fire on Campus
- North Carolina – Video: Student Charged for Allegedly Punching Pro-Lifer Repeatedly in the Face
- Pennsylvania – State Lawmaker Berates Pro-Life Woman, Attempts to Doxx Pro-Life Teenage Girls
- California – FBI Arrests Man for Allegedly “Serious” Death Threats against Pro-Life Speaker Ben Shapiro, Family (TMZ)
- Alabama – Abortion Activist Throws Paint inside Alabama House as Lawmakers Vote to Ban Abortion
- Texas – University of Texas Austin Student Pro-Life Materials Stolen, Thrown in the Gutter (Students for Life)
- More Than 50 Pro-Life Student Displays Vandalized This School Year (Students for Life)
- Texas – Abortion Activists Tried to Shut Down Pro-Life Speaker With Smokebomb. They Failed
- Washington state – Conservative Student: Man Vandalized Display, Tried to Hit Her With Car Twice (The College Fix)
- Kentucky – Elderly Pro-Life Woman Attacked Outside Abortion Facility, Thighbone Broken
- Illinois – Pro-Life Students’ Display Stolen at Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville (Students for Life)
- Texas – Police Investigate Threats Against Pro-Life Republican Lawmakers (Dallas News)
- Missouri – Pro-life Speaker Michael Knowles Attacked during Speech at University of Missouri-Kansas City (Campus Reform)
- California – Pro-Abortion Students Allegedly Throw Pro-Life Display Into River, Protest Pro-Life Speech With Coat Hangers
- California – Video: Planned Parenthood Supporter Brutally Assaults Elderly Pro-Life Volunteer
- Massachusetts – Massachusetts Citizens for Life Receives Suspicious Package, Building Shut Down
- Michigan – Video: Abortion Activists Steal Crosses from Pro-Life Display at University of Michigan
- Massachusetts – Pro-lifer Punched in Face Outside Abortion Facility
- Connecticut – Pro-Life Students’ Display Vandalized at University of Connecticut
- Missouri – Items Stolen, Vandalized from Church Pro-Life Display (WDAF Kansas City)
- Minnesota – Campus Republican Club Catches Students on Video Tearing Down Pro-Life Fliers (College Fix)
- Australia – Video: Pro-Abortion Students Vandalize Pro-Life Campus Display (LifeChoice Australia)
- England – Police Investigate Violent Attacks on Pro-Life People at Prayer Vigils
- Ohio – Abortion Activists Allegedly Harass Pro-Life Rape Survivor, Police Called (Students for Life)
- Washington state – 3 Pro-Life Billboards Vandalized: “Your Life Drains Earth” (The Blaze)
- California – Abortion Activists Destroy, Steal UCLA Pro-Life Club Signs (Live Action)
- Virginia – Pregnancy Center Vandalized in Politically Motivated Attack
- Washington, D.C. – Abortion Activists Smash Pro-Life Sign, Hit Boy and His Dad With a Stick
- France – Abortion Activists Spraypaint “Blessed Abortion” on Catholic Church (National Catholic Register)
- Texas – Pro-Life Advocate Brutally Assaulted for Telling Man “Jesus Loves You”