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D.C. Attorney General Uses the KKK Act of 1871 to Sue Proud Boys and Oath Keepers Over ‘Gutless’ Jan. 6 Attack

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) speaks at a press conference.

The District of Columbia filed a federal civil lawsuit on Tuesday against two far-right groups and numerous other individuals over their alleged participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Complex.

“Violence is an inextricable part of both organizations and a common link between them,” the 84-page lawsuit filed in D.C. District Court against Proud Boys International, LLC and the Oath Keepers alleges.

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) announced the litigation with much anticipation and gusto by opening with a quote attributed to former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt — a quote which currently adorns the FDR memorial on the National Mall.

“We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization,” Racine said before likening the conservative, pro-Trump mob’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election to the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001.

“A very different but familiar enemy, inflamed by a sitting president and other elected officials, wearing military fatigues and red, white and blue,” attacked the national seat of legislative government on Jan. 6, the AG noted. “It was like 9/11 — a planned terrorist attack, but this time, our own citizens were hellbent on destroying the freedoms and ideals on which our country was founded, and continues to aspire to achieve.”

Calling the incident “gutless” and traumatizing for members of law enforcement, Racine said the taxed-without-representation federal district had “chosen to speak truth through this lawsuit” by targeting the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the two right-wing organizations have fashioned themselves as “Western chauvinists” and as “defend[ers of] the Constitution” but instead function like a street gang and a law-enforcement-heavy paramilitary group, respectively.

Several persons alleged to be affiliated with each group are currently facing dozens, if not hundreds, of combined charges in the federal criminal court system over the Jan. 6 attack.

“They were not tourists,” Racine continued. “They were vigilantes, insurrectionists who sought to crush our freedoms.”

The lawsuit, which also targets dozens of named defendants and even more unnamed defendants, is premised on the the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. It also employs another closely-related federal law that increases liability for violations of the act and several common law tort claims.

“[T]he Individual Defendants conspired together and participated in planning, promoting, financing, organizing, and carrying out the January 6th Attack,” the filing reads. “Defendants Proud Boys and Oath Keepers also participated in the conspiracy, playing a key role in the planning, promotion, financing, organizing, and carrying out of the January 6th Attack by lending their experience — and in some cases, organizational resources — to the planned January 6th Attack.”

Among those singled out is Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who the filing says has “repeatedly urged” the group’s “members to be prepared to fight in what they perceive to be an impending civil war.”

The filing details his alleged culpability, at length:

Oath Keepers leader Rhodes, who coordinated logistical details for many involved in the Attack in real time, messaged another Oath Keepers leader, informing him that members of the team had “taken ground at the capital [sic],” instructing that “[w]e need to regroup any members who are not on mission.” Rhodes instructed his group to report to the “South Side of the Capitol,” suggesting that they had strategically planned to simultaneously (or near-simultaneously) enter the Capitol from a different entrance than the Proud Boys in order to weaken the building’s defense by forcing law enforcement to defend multiple doors.

Allegedly factually premised on “complex” physical and emotional turmoil experienced by several members of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department, Racine is seeking extensive damages.

“In the wake of this assault, the Capitol was left in shambles, with the District left to deal with the aftermath of the violent disruption to what should have been the peaceful transition of presidential power,” the filing goes on before later telegraphing a rough estimate of the money sought: “While the costs to the District are still being investigated and tallied, the District has preliminarily estimated that MPD incurred millions of dollars in costs during the week of January 6th alone.”

Racine’s lawsuit is the first such effort from a government entity against any of the alleged co-conspirators who organized and stormed the Capitol that fateful and hectic day.

“Today, we’re holding these insurrectionists accountable for conspiring to terrorize the District by planning, promoting, and participating in the deadly attack on the Capitol,” the AG said at the presser. “I’m seeking damages in this case and will keep working to ensure such an assault never happens again.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) filed a lawsuit under the KKK Act against the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and former president Donald Trump over the “carefully orchestrated” violence that occurred during the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.  That lawsuit was filed by Thompson in his individual capacity, however, and not by a government entity.

[image via screengrab/C-SPAN]

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