For months, dozens of pro-life pregnancy centers have been terrorized by a radical pro-choice outfit calling itself Jane’s Revenge, but now it looks as if the previously unknown group is entwined with a larger threat: Antifa.
Two Miami residents charged with conspiracy for attacks on multiple crisis pregnancy centers in Florida were linked by Antifa-trackers and conservative media outlets to the shadowy anarchist movement after the federal indictment was unsealed last week by the Justice Department.
One of the suspects, 23-year-old Amber Smith-Stewart, has made no secret of her Antifa sympathies. She identified herself as “Antifa, anti-capitalist” on her Facebook page, which includes images of pro-Antifa posters and flags, in a screenshot posted on the AntifaWatch website.
The second suspect, 27-year-old Caleb Freestone, is listed on AntifaWatch and has been active with Whatever It Takes, a left-wing pro-choice group with no love for “fascists” that advocates for “sustained civil resistance” and “direct action.”
He was arrested in July at a heated Miami-Dade County school board meeting and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest without violence and trespassing after a warning. A woman at the meeting publicly accused him of being with Antifa, which he appeared to deny.
“People who are accused of being the boogeyman antifa are met with a significant police response,” Mr. Freestone told WLRN public radio.
The two allegedly vandalized in June a trio of pregnancy resource centers in Hialeah, Hollywood and Winter Haven, leaving behind spray-painted messages such as “Jane,” “Jane was here” and “Jane’s Revenge,” as well as the anarchist “A” symbol favored by Antifa.
That doesn’t mean Antifa and Jane’s Revenge are one and the same, but they likely share much of the same personnel, said Kyle Shideler, senior analyst for homeland security and counterterrorism for the Center for Security Policy.
He described both as examples of anarchist and autonomist Marxist groups organized by affinity groups, small cells of individuals that share the same politics and engage in direct action together, often joining other affinity groups to form clusters. Those that stay together are called collectives or blocs.
“There are probably people who identify as Jane’s Revenge who do not engage in activities that Antifa is best known for, but the overlap is really high,” Mr. Schideler said.
A week after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked May 2, a group calling itself Jane’s Revenge firebombed the Wisconsin Family Action headquarters in Madison and issued a communique warning that more attacks were coming.
That assault acted as a call to arms for affinity groups nationwide, Mr. Schideler said.
“You had the initial incident that was carried out by Jane’s Revenge, and then they issued a manifesto essentially saying if you believe in this, then you are a member of us. Go out and do what we have done,” Mr. Schideler said. “It’s a very common insurrectionary, anarchist way of thinking. So various affinity groups across the country took up that call and conducted actions in the name of Jane’s Revenge.”
Since the Supreme Court leak, at least 79 pro-life facilities have been attacked, as have 126 Catholic churches, according to the CatholicVote tracker.
The Jane’s Revenge statement issued in May through Bellingcat journalist Robert Evans ended with: “We are not one group, but many. We are in your city. We are in every city.”
There may be no organized Jane’s Revenge presence “in every city,” but there appear to be affinity groups nationwide that engage in “direct action” campaigns like protests, vandalism, and attacks on property for a variety of far-left causes.
Portland journalist Andy Ngo, author of the 2021 book “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy,” made the Antifa connection last year, calling Jane’s Revenge a “terrorist far-left group connected to #Antifa.”
Mr. Schideler compared the structure to that of the Islamic State, in which “somebody who commits an attack in the name of the Islamic State was considered to be a member of the Islamic State, even if they hadn’t discussed the matter beforehand.”
“Conducting the action is your membership. It’s what makes you part of the group,” he said. “If you commit an action in the name of the group, you’re a member of the group, as far as they’re concerned. And that makes them very challenging to deal with.”
The result is a network of underground activist organizations with many of the same members but different thrusts.
“What we see is that a lot of these anarchist and autonomist affinity groups conduct actions for a variety of what we would call policy reasons,” Mr. Schideler said. “It might be environmental stuff, it might be pro-abortion stuff, it might be what they call anti-fascist organizing.”
For example, a self-described “autonomous group” called Defend the Atlanta Forests is leading protests against construction of a police training center in DeKalb County, Georgia, dubbed “cop city” by critics. One man was shot and killed Jan. 18 after shooting and wounding a Georgia state trooper, authorities said.
More than 20 protesters have been charged since December with domestic terrorism, including six arrested after the Jan. 21 rioting in Atlanta. The demonstrators have been identified by some media outlets as Antifa and others as “forest defenders.”
“The media has a tendency to do exactly what these networks expect that they will do, which is to focus on the name of the group: ‘Oh, this is a new group, where do they come from? Oh, it’s very mysterious,’” said Mr. Schideler. “Well, it’s actually probably a lot of the usual suspects, but using a new name to focus on the issue they want you to focus on.”
CompassCare CEO James Harden, whose pregnancy resource center in New York was firebombed by Jane’s Revenge in June, said he wasn’t surprised by the Antifa link, based on the ideological similarities.
“Jane’s Revenge is an anarchist group, and Antifa does have links to anarchist activity,” said Mr. Harden. “There’s definitely crossover. To the extent that they see a connection between pro-life activity and the traditional Judeo-Christian norms that they’re looking to undermine, that’s where they’re going to focus their efforts.”
He cited a July 1 protest outside the Illinois home of Thomas More Society attorney Thomas Brejcha that bore the hallmarks of Antifa.
“Our lead attorney was doxed, and they had a massive protest at his house,” Mr. Harden said. “They had the signature graffiti, the typical garb that they wear, the face masks, the anarchist stuff. It’s all very, very similar.”
The two Miami residents were also charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the first time the federal law has been used against pro-choice versus pro-life protesters, Mr. Harden said.
The Justice Department said the suspects “violated the FACE Act by intentionally damaging and destroying the facility’s property because the facility provides reproductive health services.”
The Life Choices Pregnancy Center in Winter Haven provides no-cost services including pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.
The defendants face up to a maximum of 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000.