A Texas woman is facing an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge after allegedly tossing a Molotov cocktail at pro-life protesters who were holding a prayer vigil outside of an abortion clinic in Austin, Texas, on Monday night.
Melanie Toney, 52, is accused of slowly driving by the group of Christian activists who were praying outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic before tossing the homemade bomb at the group.
Ruth Allwein, a member of the vigil that night, acted quickly to stomp out the flame before anyone was hurt, with Central Texas Coalition for Life board president Abby Johnson telling TheBlaze that Allwein was “pretty shaken up” after the incident, though she returned the next day to pray again outside of the clinic.
“There were some volunteers out there and one of our prayer volunteers had just left, and she had pulled out of the parking lot and was behind this woman and she saw her slow down,” Johnson said. “And then she saw something on fire come out of the side window, and so our volunteer that was in the car behind her followed her to try to get her license plate.”
Toney reportedly drove to the parking lot of a nearby strip club, where the member of the pro-life group was able to get her license plate number before phoning authorities.
After calling 911, the Austin Police Department showed up alongside firefighters and the bomb squad in an effort to assess the situation.
“The bomb squad … told us that that [the bomb] could have done very serious damage to our volunteers that were out there had it gone off,” Johnson told TheBlaze, with local outlets citing experts who corroborated this claim.
Johnson also explained that the Central Texas Coalition for Life holds a vigil outside of the Planned Parenthood office — one of only two abortion clinics left in Austin — every day in an effort to pray for the women that enter in hopes that they reconsider having abortions.
She also told TheBlaze that this wasn’t the first time that Toney had confronted the prayer group, recounting a series of events that allegedly unfolded over the past few weeks.
“Two weeks ago, this same woman came to the clinic and started throwing milk around on the ground. I don’t know if she was attempting to get it on the volunteers, and she wasn’t really saying anything much,” Johnson said. “She would say things every once in a while like, ‘You guys are disgusting.'”
Johnson said that Toney returned last week and threw fruit punch and an egg at the pro-lifers.
As for the homemade bomb, according to KXAN-TV, Toney initially denied throwing the Molotov cocktail, though she allegedly later admitted doing so, but did not specify her motive or intended targets.
Rather than deterring prayerful advocates from appearing outside of the clinic, Johnson said that the incident brought additional supporters there on Tuesday, with around 25 people assembling — a cohort that she said was likely the largest they’ve seen there.
While the incident was scary, she said that it is rare that dangerous items are thrown at pro-life advocates.
As for Allwein, Johnson said that she’s been urging people to pray for Toney and that the organization would like to help her.
“She’s been calling people to pray for this woman,” Johnson said. “We would like to talk with her and see if there’s anything we can do for her.”
Toney’s son reportedly wrote in a Facebook message that he loves his mother very much and that he is hoping to get her the “help she needs.”