WASHINGTON — D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) announced a civil lawsuit against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for their alleged involvement in planning and carrying out the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The lawsuit also aims to hold more than 30 individuals accountable for their role in the deadly attack.
Racine made the announcement at a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), States United Democracy Center CEO Joanna Lydgate, and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
Racine said the lawsuit is the first in the nation filed by a government entity to hold individuals accountable for the Capitol riot. He said the "red flags" leading up to the attacks "were as loud as can be" and the "Capitol went undefended for nearly three hours."
"The groups were organizing," he said. Several officers suffered from the riots and "this lawsuit seeks justice for them," Racine said.
Norton noted that the city has incurred a number of expenses due to the attacks on the Capitol. She said she helped secure $9.1 million from the federal government in July to help compensate the Metropolitan Police Department for medical treatment related to the riots.
"From damage to police property to medical expenses related to the attack, the perpetrators, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, must pay D.C.," Norton said.
The lawsuit is an important "deterrent" for the District, Norton said, because it sends a message to people who try to spread political violence to "be prepared to spend money because we're coming after you."
Lydgate called the Jan. 6 attack an "attack on our democracy" and said accountability is "critical" for those who push political violence.
In the suit, the AG's office alleges the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers violated two provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 which deal with conspiracy against the federal government. One, Section 1985, deals with conspiracies to "molest, interrupt, hinder or impede" official duties. The other, Section 1986, imposes civil liability on individuals who know about such a conspiracy and are in a position to stop it but make no effort to do so.
In August, seven members of the U.S. Capitol Police Department filed a similar lawsuit as private individuals against many of the same defendants – with the addition of former President Donald Trump. Multiple Democratic members of Congress, including January 6th Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MI), have also filed civil suits against Trump and members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
In addition to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers organizations themselves, the suit names dozens of individual defendants, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who did not attend January 6 events in D.C. due to an arrest two days earlier on charges of destruction of property and bringing illegal high-capacity magazines into D.C. Tarrio is currently serving a more than five-month sentence on those charges.
Racine said Tuesday he hopes the lawsuit will "bring as much financial pain" to the groups "as possible." He said when this act is invoked against racist hate groups "they go running, they go hiding, they get decentralized and frankly they're less dangerous."
Racine said if the groups choose to defend themselves, he looks forward to questioning where their money is coming from.
"Our intent, as we indicated, is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage that we can," Racine said. "If it so happens that we bankrupt them, then that's a good day."
The current lawsuit does not aim to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for the riots at the Capitol, but Racine did not rule out suing Trump in the future for the attacks.
Racine's move is not without recent precedent. Last month, a jury in Virginia found a group of white nationalists liable for more than $25 million in damages for their role in planning the deadly 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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