Rachael Rollins, first Black woman US attorney for Massachusetts, faces death threats

Rollins is seeking protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, backed by dozens of faith leaders and community groups.

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When she was sworn in on Monday, Rachael Rollins made history as the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts. Also historic are the number of violent and often racist threats against Rollins, who is currently seeking protection from the U.S. Marshals Service. 

According to CNN, threats against Rollins escalated after she was confirmed by the Senate in a narrow vote in December. All Republicans voted against her confirmation and she was confirmed when Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as tie-breaker in the Senate, voted affirmatively.

Threats against Rachel Rollins (above) have escalated after she was confirmed by the Senate in a narrow vote in December. (Photo Credit: Boston 25 News)

Dozens of faith leaders and community organizations sent a letter of support to Merrick Garland, the U.S. Attorney General, noting that protection for Rollins should have been provided as soon as she was confirmed. 

“We have been through an era where others have been killed because of the stances that they were taking,” Rev. Jeffrey Brown told CNN, adding that women of color are bearing the brunt of such violence. “I believe the threats are coming because the atmosphere feels like they can easily target women of color.”

Brown is the associate pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He told CNN that people wrote threats against Rollins in response to his tweet congratulating her on her confirmation. 

“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.”

Rollins is among the most diverse class of federal judges to be confirmed in recent years. Some criticism against her includes her decision to vacate thousands of drug convictions after it was discovered that chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak allegedly tampered with evidence at the William A. Hinton State Lab between May 2003 and August 2012. 

“No defendant harmed in this ignominious chapter of Massachusetts law enforcement history should continue to bear the burden and be marked with the brand of the Commonwealth’s extensive wrongdoing,” Rollins wrote in the court filing. 

The U.S. Marshals Service has not commented directly on security for Rollins, saying, “We continuously review security measures for these officials, and take appropriate actions as warranted, but for safety reasons, we do not discuss specific security protocols.” 

In July 2020, Federal Judge Esther Salas’ husband and son were shot by a disgruntled lawyer when they answered their door—her son was killed in the attack. The shooting prompted the Justice Department to request a multibillion-dollar budget increase to combat domestic terrorism.

Garland testified during a hearing related to the budget, that the “rise of domestic violent extremism” targeted at judges and other government officials, is something to be “very, very concerned about.”

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