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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Capitol Police officers sue Trump and extremist groups over Capitol riot

In the latest attempt to hold former President Donald Trump and his allies accountable for inciting the deadly Capitol riot, seven Capitol Police officers filed a sweeping lawsuit implicating members of nearly 20 political and extremist groups.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A group of seven U.S. Capitol Police officers sued Trump and a slew of far-right extremist organizations and political organizers on Thursday over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, in the most comprehensive and expansive lawsuit filed regarding the riot thus far. 

The officers claim Trump, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, Trump ally Roger Stone and others conspired to use violence to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden as the winner of the 2021 presidential election, and that Trump worked with these organizations and political organizers to promote the baseless claim that the election was stolen. 

“As this lawsuit makes clear, the Jan. 6 insurrection was not just an attack on individuals, but an attack on democracy itself,” said Damon Hewitt, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represents the police officers. “It was a blatant attempt to stifle the votes and voices of millions of Americans, particularly Black voters.”

The 71 -page lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, claims Trump led a systematic and coordinated effort to spread the lie of widespread election fraud, energizing white supremacists and violent extremist groups, and encouraging them to coordinate a violent attack on the Capitol. 

“Racism and white supremacy pervaded defendants’ efforts from the outset,” the officers say in their complaint, noting the defendants targeted their claims of election fraud at places with significant Black populations. 

Detailing the actions of the defendants leading up to the riot, the officers note one Proud Boys member sent a message on Telegram saying he hoped his men could incite the “normies” to “burn that city to ash today” and “smash some pigs to dust.” 

In a public message on Telegram after the riot, Zachary Reh, the president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys, said the officers who defended the Capitol “deserve to be tarred and feathered.”

The U.S. Capitol Police officers who filed the lawsuit, five of whom are Black, described being assaulted with rocks, bear spray, metal poles and fire extinguishers. And though several police officers relayed their stories at a Congressional hearing in July, this is the first time that these seven officers recounted their experiences. 

“They sent countless calls for assistance,” the officers say in the complaint. “For hours, they engaged in brutal, bloody, hand-to-hand combat to prevent more attackers from entering the Capitol.”

Officer Jason DeRoche said he was pelted with batteries and sprayed with mace and bear spray, causing his eye to swell shut. After he was able to rinse out his eye, he was then hit by clouds of tear gas. Officer Governor Latson, who is Black, said that was physically assaulted and had racial slurs yelled at him. 

“When he arrived at the Capitol, he saw that it was like a war zone, with chemical fog in the air, tables flipped, statues defaced, feces on the walls, and blood and broken glass on the floors,” the lawsuit says, describing Officer Michael Fortune’s recounting of arriving at the Capitol hours after the crowd had entered. 

The officers have collectively spent over 150 years protecting Congress. 

"Because of defendants' unlawful actions, plaintiffs were violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives," the officers say in their lawsuit. "Plaintiffs' injuries, which defendants caused, persist to this day."

The actions of Trump and his allies violate the Klu Klux Klan Act, the officers claim, which forbids conspiracies to use force, intimidation, and threats to prevent federal officers from doing their jobs or to injure them in the course of their work. 

The complaint notes while these demonstrators were overtaking the Capitol, Trump watched from his TV, refusing to call them off — and praised them after it was all over. 

“We love you. You’re very special,” Trump tweeted. “Remember this day forever!”

Trump has faced several other lawsuits for his role in the Capitol riot, including ones filed by Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi,  Eric Swalwell of California and two Capitol Police officers. But Thursday's lawsuit is the first one to claim he conspired directly with other groups and organizations. 

Trump has attempted to dismiss each lawsuit, arguing that he was acting in his official capacity as president and therefore immune from any litigation. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

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