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Violent conservatives target a Black U.S. attorney, sending a chilling message

Threats aimed at prosecutor Rachael Rollins fit a pattern of conservative bullying over who should be protected by the law.

A recent CNN report highlighted the racist threats leveled against Rachael Rollins, the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts. 

The Senate confirmed her in December with the help of Vice President Kamala Harris, whose tie-breaking vote gave Rollins the backing she needed to overcome uniform Republican opposition. Rollins was sworn in Monday. 

Republicans labeled Rollins a “radical” and “dangerous” during her hearings due to her progressive stances on policing and incarceration. “Danger,” for conservatives, just means she’s opposed to arrests for low-level offenses and believes jail should be a “last resort” for people who commit those offenses. Conservative fearmongering over her confirmation put her in the crosshairs of right-wing extremists, revealing the ultimatum the movement offers law enforcement officials in America: endorse our views or be thrown to the wolves. 

According to CNN, Rollins is seeking federal protection: 

The violent and often racist threats against Rachael Rollins have been reported to authorities, and she is seeking protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, sources familiar with the matter told CNN. The threats escalated shortly after the Senate narrowly voted to confirm her to the post in December, according to one source.

Rev. Jeffrey Brown, one of dozens of faith leaders who co-signed a letter to U.S. marshals in December regarding the threats, shared some of his concerns with CNN:

“They were saying that she’s hotheaded and insane and accused her of identity politics, but what was really disturbing was the one that went directly to her where they would call her the n-word and the b-word and talking about putting a bullet in her head,” Brown said.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins is reportedly seeking federal protection amid a series of threats.Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

The U.S. Marshals Service tracked more than 4,250 “inappropriate communications or threats to protected persons” in each of the past three fiscal years, according to its most recent annual report. That’s compared to fewer than 3,000 in the two years before that. And the number of threats U.S. marshals investigated nearly tripled in fiscal 2020 to about 1,050 cases, the report stated.

These threats to public officials haven’t occurred in a vacuum. They escalated during Donald Trump's presidency and have continued. The conservative movement casts officials who hold Trump accountable — or undermine his characterization of nonwhites as rampant wrongdoers — as dangers to America. 

That includes Black, progressive women prosecutors like Rollins. 

The Jan. 6 attack was yet another example of conservatives turning on law enforcement out of convenience. They suddenly viewed U.S. Capitol Police as enemies for defending themselves and lawmakers from insurrectionists who falsely claimed the 2020 election had been stolen in part by fraudulent Black voters. 

That and similar contradictions send a clear message to law enforcement: Conservatism is law, and fealty to it is the only way to earn protection.

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