Have you been thinking about getting a gun? I have-- and probably will. Yesterday DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed a 84-page federal lawsuit against domestic terrorist militias the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. One of the allegations is based on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 targeting violent conspiracies. A trio of Washington Post reporters wrote that Racine is seeking to cripple the 2 terrorist groups by exacting stiff financial penalties. The suit "is the first effort by a government agency to hold individuals and organizations civilly responsible for the violence at the U.S. Capitol" on January 6.
A similar legal tactic led to a $26 million verdict last month against more than a dozen of the nation’s most influential white supremacists and hate groups for their role in the deadly 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville. That trial evidence drew heavily on the defendants’ text messages, social media posts and videos to reconstruct how they conspired in advance of the violence.
In the 1980s, a lawsuit drove an Alabama-based faction of the Klan into bankruptcy, forcing members to turn over their local headquarters to the family of a murdered Black man.Racine said the goal of the Jan. 6 lawsuit is “full restitution and recompense” for the city of Washington, which has incurred huge costs for treating hundreds of injured officers. “I think the damages are substantial,” he said in a phone interview. “If it so happens that it bankrupts or puts these individuals and entities in financial peril, so be it.”The suit names as defendants Proud Boys International LLC, Oath Keepers and dozens of their most high-profile members-- mostly individuals who are charged in federal court with committing crimes related to Jan. 6.
...Racine’s civil suit was put together with the backing of two nonprofit groups that focused on the Jan. 6 assault: the States United Democracy Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Those groups and two private law firms served as pro bono outside counsel to the attorney general as he developed the case.
...The lawsuit draws heavily on evidence gathered by federal prosecutors seeking to prove that dozens of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys members conspired to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. It says the defendants conspired “to prevent, interrupt, hinder, and impede, through force, intimidation, and threat . . . United States officials from discharging official duties of their offices and positions of trust as part of the formal process for counting and certifying the count of electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election and declaring a winner of the 2020 presidential election.”
Except for Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, all the named defendants in the lawsuit are also charged with federal crimes. Two have already pleaded guilty.
In the criminal cases, prosecutors have drawn on encrypted chats and emails to claim that the Oath Keepers planned for weeks in advance of Jan. 6-- recruiting new members, engaging in paramilitary training, setting up radios to stay in communication and stashing guns just across the river in Virginia.
Prosecutors say one Florida Oath Keepers member said in a Dec. 19 Facebook message that he had “formed an alliance” with the Proud Boys to “shut this [expletive] down,” and later referred to the Proud Boys as a “force multiplier.”
On Jan. 6, according to prosecutors, several Oath Keepers entered the Capitol in a militarylike “stack” with the goal of disrupting the electoral college count.
...Prosecutors say Proud Boys were among the first to knock down barricades and breach the Capitol windows on Jan. 6-- paving the way for thousands of others to follow. Four prominent members of the group are set to go on trial in May.
Proud Boys leader Tarrio was jailed at the time of the riot for burning a “Black Lives Matter” flag stolen from a church during an earlier protest in D.C. But like Rhodes, he is described by prosecutors as coordinating with others who are accused of invading the building.
“Just spoke with” Tarrio; “we have a plan,” one Proud Boys leader allegedly said in an encrypted group chat on Jan. 5, according to prosecutors.
Members of both groups face charges that carry a penalty of decades in prison, even if they did not personally attack police or break anything. But so far they have not been charged with sedition or insurrection; instead, they are accused of obstructing an official proceeding.
Only a few of the dozens of Proud Boy and Oath Keeper defendants have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the government; many are challenging the legal basis for the charges. They say they were not conspiring to use violence against police or politicians but in battle with leftist counterprotesters, who had tangled with right-wing agitators at previous Trump rallies. Defense attorneys also contend prosecutors are stretching the obstruction law in a way that turns protesting into a crime.
The Oath Keepers “intended to affect the actions of Congress: otherwise known as political demonstration and protest,” wrote Carmen Hernandez, who represents one defendant in that group. “This application of the obstruction statute to a person . . . who was involved in a political demonstration, will chill the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”
So that was in yesterday's Washington Post. At around the same time, the NY Times published a piece by Sheera Frenkel, Proud Boys Regroup Locally to Add to Ranks Before 2022 Midterms. The fascist organization, which has decentralized after the coup attempt but has around 31,000 members nationally, has been showing up at school board and town council meetings around the country to protest mask requirements and scream about books they don't approve of. "Their presence at the events," wrote Frenkel," is part of a strategy shift by the militia organization toward a larger goal: to bring their brand of menacing politics to the local level... [S]ince federal authorities have cracked down on the group for the Jan. 6 attack, including arresting more than a dozen of its members, the organization has been more muted. Or at least that was how it appeared. Away from the national spotlight, the Proud Boys instead quietly shifted attention to local chapters, some members and researchers said. In small communities-- usually suburbs or small towns with populations of tens of thousands-- its followers have tried to expand membership by taking on local causes. That way, they said, the group can amass more supporters in time to influence next year’s midterm elections. 'The plan of attack if you want to make change is to get involved at the local level,' said Jeremy Bertino, a prominent member of the Proud Boys from North Carolina."