Seven US Capitol police officers (“the plaintiffs”) filed a complaint in federal court on Thursday against former president Donald Trump and one of his corporations, Stop the Steal LLC, domestic and international Proud Boys groups, and other far right extremist groups (“the defendants”) for allegedly causing injuries to more than 140 police officers on January 6.
The officers accuse the defendants of spreading lies and using violence, intimidation and white supremacist sentiments to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election. According to the complaint, the officers were “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.” The officers said that their injuries persist to this day.
The plaintiffs also specifically accuse Trump of adding fuel to the fire by encouraging his supporters despite media reports that his supporters were angry and willing to turn to violence and despite knowledge that his supporters included individuals who carried white supremacist sentiments and supported violence against Blacks and other minorities. The complaint incorporates many screenshots of Trump’s tweets right before, during, and after the US Capitol attacks as evidence of his complicity.
The plaintiffs allege six counts against the defendants in the complaint: violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act (“KKK Act”) – conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and failure to prevent the same (counts 1 and 2); violation of DC Bias-Related Crimes Act (“BRCA”); battery; assault; and negligence.
The KKK Act provides relief for individuals injured by conspiracies “to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties…” The KKK Act also provides relief for any US officer who has been threatened, forced or intimidated to leave any state, district or locality where his or her duties are required to be performed, or who was injured in his person or property for lawfully discharging or during the lawful discharge of his duties.
The BRCA targets certain kinds of hate crimes and provides relief for “any person who incurs injury to his or her person or property as a result of an intentional act” due to prejudices regarding “actual or perceived” political affiliation. The other counts alleged in the complaint with respect to the BRCA more specifically relate to acts of terrorism; rioting and inciting to riot; and malicious burning, destruction, or injury of another person’s property.
The plaintiffs demand a jury trial and seek compensatory and punitive damages, including attorneys’ fees and costs, for physical and emotional injuries caused by the defendants.
Over 535 individuals have so far been arrested for crimes related to the US Capitol riots, of which 165 have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. Last month, Paul Hodgkins of Florida became the first felon to be sentenced for his role in the US Capitol storming. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution for damages caused to buildings. The US House of Representatives also passed a resolution last month to establish a committee to investigate the US Capitol attacks.