Man Who Burned Down Tennessee Abortion Clinic Also Attended Jan. 6 Insurrection

Mark Thomas Reno said in a text message about the Planned Parenthood arson, "we were busy in THE CULT OF JESUS.”

Man Who Burned Down Tennessee Abortion Clinic Also Attended Jan. 6 Insurrection
Photo:Michael B. Thomas (Getty Images)

Unsealed court documents have revealed that the man who burned down a Planned Parenthood clinic on New Year’s Eve was also at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, according to the Tennessee Lookout and the Associated Press. The man joins a list of others engaged in anti-abortion violence who were present at the insurrection, including a convicted clinic bomber.

The FBI used surveillance footage to identify now-deceased Mark Thomas Reno as the man who fired a shotgun at the doors of a Knoxville, Tennessee, abortion clinic on January 22, 2021—the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. FBI Agent Thomas Calhoun said in the unsealed affidavit that Reno returned to the clinic nearly a year later, in the early morning of December 31, 2021, to set fire to it. The clinic, which had been closed for renovations since December 7, burned to the ground.

About two weeks before he shot up the clinic, Reno had attended the Capitol riot with a fake cane and glasses. He didn’t bring his phone to avoid being identified—a fact he shared with an undercover FBI agent. (The FBI said there’s no evidence he entered the Capitol or broke any other laws that day.)

In late January 2022, Reno told a plainclothes investigator from the Knoxville Fire Department that he belonged to a group called Church Militant Resistance and that he was willing to fight for his beliefs and that the neighborhood was better after the clinic burned down.

Reno went to a gathering at the clinic site on April 26, 2022, and told the plainclothes investigator from the Knoxville Fire Department that he planned to burn the building down again when reconstruction began, and that he had developed a plan to burn a second abortion clinic in town, the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health. He also mentioned targeting federal buildings and said he wanted to abolish the Departments of Education and Energy.

On July 3, he fired shots into a federal office building, and he was arrested on July 18. Shortly thereafter, federal grand jury indicted him on one count of destruction of property for shooting at the federal building.

A search of Reno’s phone after he was arrested showed that he texted a news article about the clinic arson to someone and wrote “we were busy in THE CULT OF JESUS.”

Court documents show that Reno had been detained since July and had been temporarily released in August to receive medical care. Reno died on August 15 at age 64 after suffering a “medical episode” in jail.

Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, noted in a press conference on Monday that anti-abortion rhetoric leads often to actual violence. “The man who was arrested in this case is not the only one who holds responsibility,” Coffield said. “When politicians use hateful rhetoric against abortion providers and support extreme laws, like the total abortion ban we have in Tennessee, it shouldn’t surprise us that some people believe real world violence is justified. Fires need fuel and politicians are all too eager to provide it.”

Coffield also criticized Gov. Bill Lee (R) for not condemning the attack on the abortion clinic. By contrast, Lee spoke up after an attempted arson at an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center in July, which he called “terrorism.”

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