Mattie Walker, 24, was asleep when the knocks on her door began—but “once I heard how they were knocking, I figured it was the cops,” she told Jezebel.
Law enforcement officers had shown up to her home in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area, bearing a letter from the Department of Homeland Security, Walker says, due to a tweet she posted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
It all began on June 24th—not June 4th, as the letter states—the day that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was announced. In reaction to the decision, Walker posted an angry quote-tweet in response to a clip of President Biden urging pro-abortion protestors to “keep all protests peaceful.”
“Burn every fucking government building down right the fuck now,” she wrote in a now-deleted tweet.. “Slaughter them all. Fuck you god damn pigs.”
Six days later, Walker says, officers arrived at her door. One of the questions they asked, she says, was, “Do you still plan on burning any government buildings down?”
“I said, ‘No, sir. That wasn’t my plan in the first place,’” Walker told me in a phone interview. “I was like, I honestly haven’t even been able to make it to any protests yet.”
She was issued a letter from DHS that read in part: “This letter is to advise you that any further communications containing any real or implied harassment/threats against the personal safety of agencies, employees or contractors towards government officials are unwarranted and unwelcome. You are advised as of the date of this letter to cease and desist in any conduct deemed harassing/threatening in nature when communicating to or about the federal government.”
(Joshua Henry, the special agent for DHS who authored the letter, confirmed its authenticity to the Dallas Morning News.)
“Failure to comply with this request could result in the filing of criminal charges,” the letter added.
“I wasn’t directly threatening,” Walker says. “It was simply just a tweet. I didn’t tag anybody.”
“DHS’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) coordinates with law enforcement partners across the country to protect federal facilities, and those who work in and visit those buildings, from violence,” DHS wrote in a statement to Jezebel. “FPS may issue warnings as a result of threats made to federal facilities and federal employees, in line with standard law enforcement practices. Americans’ freedom of speech and right to peacefully protest are fundamental Constitutional rights. Those rights do not extend to violence and other illegal activity.”
Walker says that her experience made her recall a local news story—that of the anti-LGBTQ Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, Texas. In response to her initial viral tweet, she posted an NBC News Story about a recent incident in which one of the church’s pastors issued a call for mass murder from the pulpit, but as of yet has faced no known repercussions from law enforcement.
“These people should be put to death,” church pastor Dillon Awes said during his sermon. “Every single homosexual in our country should be charged with a crime. The abomination of homosexuality that they have, they should be convicted in a lawful trial. They should be sentenced with death. They should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”
The church has been the regular subject of protests, as well as a public forum at a local city council meeting in which one man affiliated with the church said, “If you study history, that homosexuality was a capital punishment in this country, and I still believe that should be true today.”
However, the local police determined said that Steadfast Baptist Church’s calls for genocide were protected by the First Amendment.
“The language used by the Pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church is likely to be offensive to many people,” the Wautaga Police department wrote in a statement to NBC news. “However, at this time, the reported language of the sermon appears to be Constitutionally protected free speech. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation.”
“I just find it highly hypocritical,” said Walker. “There’s places like Stedfast Baptist Church that are freely able to walk around and threaten violence against people of color, or gay people, or women in general. I don’t understand why places like that are able to make comments and get away with it.”
“She’s kind of taking it as a joke,” Henry, the DHS agent, told the Dallas News. “She’s not remorseful about these statements, so that’ll be presented a United State Attorney and they’ll make a decision on [sic] that.” (Henry did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment by publication time.)
Walker says that she intends to watch what she says online going forward. “Obviously, I’m not trying to go to prison over this,” she told Jezebel. “There could’ve been a better way for me to go about it, actively going to protest or speaking out in public or things like that. I guess maybe Twitter wasn’t exactly the best idea to pull out the stops with.”
Still, she urged other abortion rights supporters to “keep speaking up” and attending protests.
“Don’t let it silence anybody at all,” Walker said of her experience, “because that’s exactly what they want. They don’t want people to speak up and out about these kinds of issues when that’s exactly our right.”