DC Attorney General Karl Racine is filed a federal civil lawsuit lawsuit targeting two far-right groups involved in the January 6 riots at the Capitol, a “Western chauvinist” street brawl Proud Boys i wannabe vigilante group oath keepers, accusing them of conspiracy to prevent a peaceful transfer of power from the Donald Trump administration to the Joe Biden administration.
The involvement of both groups in the failed rebellion has been extensively documented — over 20 Proud Boys including key members such as Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean i almost as many guardians of the oath faced arrest and / or federal charges in connection with the incident. Racine relies on the same law cited in a lawsuit against the organizers of a deadly fascist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the Ku Klux Clan Act of 1871, parts of which protect government officials performing their duties (such as conspiracies to overthrow the federal government) and allow lawsuits against people involved in conspiracies to deprive others of their civil rights.
The Charlottesville case was partly a victory – while jurors ruled against prosecutors under the KKK Act, they nailed organizers for $ 26 million for other claims. But like The Washington Post noted, while there are clear similarities such as reliance on the backlog of digital evidence, Racine’s suit is significantly different because it comes from a state actor.
The aim of the lawsuit, Racine told the Post, is to expose how the two groups are funded and provide “full restitution and compensation” for the DC government, which is on the hook for medical expenses to numerous police officers beaten by rioters. Racine told the newspaper: “I think the damage is great. If it happens to go bankrupt or puts these natural and legal persons in financial danger, so be it. ”
“As an independent state prosecutor, I have a responsibility to enforce our laws and call these violent defendants to account,” Racine told a news conference on Wednesday, according to Wall Street Journal. “… We have filed this lawsuit to seek justice for the brave men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department.”
According to the Journal, the city of DC estimated that the current medical costs for many of the 850 Metropolitan Police officers mobilized to respond to the attack on the Capitol are in the millions. Racine’s lawsuit seeks compensation, legal and punitive damages against the aforementioned groups and members. The Anti-Defamation League i The American United Democracy Center helped Racine’s office to file a lawsuit.
“Last month’s victory in court in Charlottesville sent a clear message about the major financial, operational and legal consequences for violent extremism,” Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, who represented prosecutors in the Charlottesville lawsuit, told Gizmodo in a statement. . . “We know that civil lawsuits have the potential to lead to the bankruptcy and disbandment of hate groups and their leadership – and to help them prevent another strike. There is so much work ahead of us. Kudos to Attorney General Racine and all his partners in this important effort. ”
Racine declined to tell the Post whether he had discussed the lawsuit with Justice Department officials, who are currently leading federal charges against every dozen defendants except Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio (he was in jail on Jan. 6). However, it is clear that the case relies heavily on evidence already unearthed during the federal insurgency investigation, including sworn statements from criminal cases and a wealth of digital evidence such as text messages and social media histories.
Over the course of several weeks, the Proud Boys, the Guardians of the Oath, their leadership, and certain members and affiliates – motivated by a desire to overturn the legal election results and initiate a second term for President Donald Trump – worked together to plan, publish, recruit and fund their planned attack. “, The lawsuit states. “The result of that planning, the attack on the Capitol on January 6, was not a protest or a rally. It was a coordinated act of domestic terrorism. “
The lawsuit later states: “The defendants used social networks and e-mail platforms to coordinate the attack, including recruiting individuals to participate in the attack, promoting strategic tactics for use in the attack, coordinating the collection and distribution of tactical equipment and weapons, and planning and organizing trips for yourself and your accomplices. These efforts began long before January 6. “
Members of the Oath, which calls itself a militia organization, are facing some of the most serious criminal charges stemming from the attack, according to NPR. While some members of the group broke into the interior of the Capitol on January 6, its leader Stewart Rhodes was not accused of it, but of coordinating with members before and until they entered. Prosecutors have mostly charged the Proud Boys with members with inciting mafia and coordinating attacks, The NPR reported in particular, but some face charges of assault, resistance or obstruction of officials. One member named in the DC lawsuit, William Chrestman, has been charged with threatening to “attack, kidnap and kill a federal law enforcement officer”.
A telephone call transcript The prosecution revealed that after the attack, Chrestman allegedly boasted that he “broke into the Capitol building, we hurried that shit, returned that house … me and two others, we were the first to go through the gate.” Chrestman also reportedly boasted of attacking a police officer and claimed he had “started a revolution” by provoking efforts to break through fences around the Capitol.
“Unlike others whose violence was more spontaneous or more informal, Proud Boys and Guardians of the Oath were reportedly far more organized and premeditated about their illegal behavior.” Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice and the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University, San Bernardino, told Gizmodo.
As the Post noted, only a few Proud Boys or Oaths have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government. The Proud Boys, for example, made extensive use of the defense that their preparations for the conflict were against left-wing counter-protesters (despite the fact that the only organized opposition to the MAGA crowd on January 6 was the police and security forces at the Capitol).
Jonathon Mosley, a lawyer representing Philadelphia Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl and oath keeper Kelly Meggs, told the Post that the lawsuit is being filed for the wrong culprits: “You can’t stand fantasy in court. There were obviously violent people who attacked the police that day, but they were not the Proud Boys or the Guardians of the Oath. “
Steven Gardiner, director of research at Political Research Associates, told Gizmodo that members of both groups stormed the Capitol, but did so as part of a far more expansive anti-democratic movement on the far right. He specifically pointed to research by the University of Chicago project on security and threats showing that those arrested in connection with the attack seemed to be part of a disturbingly broad mass movement that focused mainly on conspiracy theories such as QAnon or Great replacement (who claims to be white systematically replaced by racial and ethnic minorities) which has clear differences from previous patterns of right-wing extremism. OhOne example is that the January 6 rebels were mostly made up of middle-aged middle-class Americans, and no younger type, dissatisfied male stereotypical associated with marginal groups.
“These types of lawsuits have been used ua several high-profile cases, such as the 1990s verdict against neo-Nazi Tom Metzger for the murder of Mulegeta Seraw by racist skinheads influenced by Metzger, ”Gardiner told Gizmodo. “The result can effectively close organizations and marginalize leaders. This is a legitimate use of the legal system and I think AG Racine has a justification for it. “
“However, it is important not to look at lawsuits of this kind – or even prosecution – as a kind of magic bullet that will end white nationalism or anti-democratic political violence,” Gardiner added. “Most of those involved in the assault on the Capitol were not the Proud Boys or the Guardians of the Oath, or any other defined group. There was part of a much larger MAGA movement that was primarily mobilized by then-President Trump and his supporters and aides in Congress. ”
“Unfortunately, as today’s extremist landscape is diverse, fragmented and often less hierarchical, the threat today involves not just groups like these, but also others who dine from a extremism buffet, ” Levin told Gizmod. He added that the movement “it also often targets not only public administration, but increasingly also state and local forums. ”
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