DC Attorney General Sues Proud Boys And Oath Keepers For Jan. 6 Damages, Citing KKK Act

WASHINGTON DC - JANUARY 6: Members of the Proud Boys make a hand gesture while walking near the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The city of Washington, D.C. sued the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on Tuesday, alleging that the groups violated the Ku Klux Klan Act and seeking damages stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. 

The defendants named both far-right organizations as well as dozens of their members who’ve been charged federally for their actions on Jan. 6. The Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who had been barred from D.C. by a judge prior to the attack, was also named.

The suit, which also named 50 unidentified defendants, noted that several of the named defendants have already reached plea deals with the federal government. 

The city was bringing the suit, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine stated at the top of the complaint, for the groups’ alleged “conspiring to terrorize the District by planning, promoting, and participating in the violent January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol Building.” 

“Over the course of several weeks, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, their leadership, and certain of their members and affiliates — motivated by a desire to overturn the legal results of the election and initiate a second term of Donald Trump’s presidency — worked together to plot, publicize, recruit for, and finance their planned attack,” the suit alleged.

“The result of that planning, the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, was not a protest or a rally. It was a coordinated act of domestic terrorism.” 

Filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, the lawsuit demanded a jury trial and sought damages for two alleged violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act. It also listed assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress allegedly committed by the groups and their members. The District of Columbia’s lawyers were joined by those from the States United Democracy Center and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as two law firms.

The Klan Act, a 19th century law created to combat the white supremacist terror group in the wake of the Civil War, has a number of components related to efforts to prevent government officials from performing their jobs, and also efforts to impede Americans’ civil rights. 

In the context of Jan. 6, the D.C. suit alleged that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers conspired to use force and threats to prevent government officials from discharging their duties — namely the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. 

The law has been cited multiple times in court in response to the Capitol attack, including in lawsuits brought by Capitol Police officers and members of Congress against Trump and those around him. The law has also been cited by Biden campaign workers who were surrounded by pro-Trump vehicles in a dramatic incident on a Texas highway last year, as well as the NAACP, which alleged that the Trump campaign violated the law with a systematic attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in 2020. 

In addition, several left-wing counterprotesters at the 2017 “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville were awarded millions of dollars in damages by a jury last month after citing the law in their complaint. However, the KKK law itself wasn’t the basis of the judgment.

Tuesday’s suit quoted extensively from the group members’ public statements on social media ahead of the attack — specifically those related to recruitment and preparation for violence — as well as from the federal criminal complaints and other filings against them. 

For example, on Dec. 19, the day Trump advertised an upcoming “wild” protest in D.C., Defendant Kelly Meggs, a member of the Oath Keepers from Florida, discussing his efforts to rally several groups to the capital. 

“I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them,” Meggs allegedly wrote to someone on Facebook three days after Trump’s tweet. “Fucking crush them for good.” 

The suit also used the criminal filings against the civil defendants to log their movements in D.C. that day, including as they allegedly scaled the steps and walls of Congress and attacked police officers.

On that latter point in particular, the suit was explicit about the damages allegedly caused by the right-wing groups and their members.

At least 65 Metropolitan Police Department officers reported sustaining injuries as a result of the Capitol attack, the suit said, ranging from cracked ribs to concussions to a heart attack. The suit cited a therapist who has worked with MPD officers, Dr. Beverly Anderson, who “discovered that some officers suffered head traumas as a result of the Attack that had previously gone undiagnosed.” 

“The effects of the January 6th Attack have continued,” the suit alleged. “MPD officers continue to suffer the effects of complex physical and emotional trauma.”

Read the suit below:

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