Lawsuit Filed Against Patriot Front for Racist Attack in Boston
BOSTON – Today, Human Rights First joined the law firm of Foley Hoag LLP in filing a civil federal lawsuit against the neo-Nazi extremist group Patriot Front, its leader Thomas Rousseau, and unnamed members for their violent attack on a Black man in Boston in 2022.
On July 2, 2022, Patriot Front members marched without a city permit along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. They wore neck gaiters to mask their faces and conceal their identities and carried large homemade shields that could be used as weapons. Encountering Charles Murrell III on the sidewalk, Patriot Front members physically attacked him, pushed him against a street pole, and bloodied him by beating him with their shields, feet, and fists.
“This attack left me with both physical and emotional injuries. While I am still trying to heal, I hope that this healing will be broader than salving my own wounds,” said Murrell, the target of the attack and plaintiff in the case. “As a Black man and an educator, I feel like every Black and Brown child is my own. If this lawsuit helps keep even one of them – one person – safe from violent white supremacists, some justice will have been served.”
The attack is a concrete example of the violence white supremacist groups including Patriot Front use to intimidate minority groups and their allies and further their worldview. This ideology is rooted in far-right antidemocratic conspiracy theories promoting racist, antisemitic, and xenophobic agendas — which are increasingly promoted and normalized by public figures, including elected officials at various levels of government. In particular, Patriot Front uses the veneer of “patriotism” as cover for this extremism — an all-too-common tactic on the far-right.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Boston, alleges that the defendants conspired to interfere with Murrell’s civil rights, in violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 (42 USC 1985(3)) and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, as well as other related state law claims.
“The law has prohibited racially motivated violence for more than 150 years, and this complaint seeks to use that law to its full extent to hold Patriot Front accountable for its conduct,” said Foley Hoag partner Anthony Mirenda. “Our firm has an unwavering commitment to helping clients protect their constitutional and civil rights. We will continue to devote resources to fight for those affected and marginalized by racial injustice.”
“This lawsuit hews to Human Rights First’s long record of using the law to bring change. One way we can check the growth of anti-democratic extremism in the United States and the associated violence it engenders is impactful litigation like this case,” said Licha Nyiendo, Chief Legal Officer at Human Rights First. “By using the courts to bring a measure of accountability, we hope that the senseless trauma brought on Charles Murrell can result in not only justice, but profound positive societal change.”
This lawsuit follows a similar, successful lawsuit spearheaded by Integrity First for America, which resulted in multi-million dollar judgments against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville.
“These violent neo-Nazis have seen such little accountability. This lawsuit seeks to change that, holding Patriot Front accountable for its brutal attack on Mr. Murrell — and we know that legal accountability can have significant financial and operational impacts, because we saw it firsthand in our Charlottesville case,” said Amy Spitalnick, Senior Advisor on Extremism at Human Rights First and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who previously spearheaded the Charlottesville case. “The Charlottesville lawsuit pushed leading extremists to bankruptcy and irrelevancy. We hope to do the same to Patriot Front in this case — to make clear there will be consequences for their violent hate.”
Human Rights First’s webpage with documents and other materials about the lawsuit is https://humanrightsfirst.org/patriotfront/.
Published on August 8, 2023