▶ Watch Video: Alleged members of far-right group “Oath Keepers” face conspiracy charges in wake of Capitol riot

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday that his office is suing the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol complex. Using a law that had been used to go after the Ku Klux Klan, the civil lawsuit will try to obtain financial relief from the groups. 

The lawsuit also marks the first civil lawsuit by a government entity to seek penalties for the attack on Congress by a crowd of pro-Trump protestors in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. The suit says the defendants are responsible for “conspiring to terrorize the District by planning, promoting, and participating in the violent January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol Building.”

The civil war-era law was recently used for the first time in modern history in the civil lawsuit Sines v. Kessler, which won $26 million in compensatory and punitive damages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis who helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. The “Ku Klux Klan Act,” an 1871 statute, was designed to protect African Americans from the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.

The lawsuit names both individual defendants, like alleged members of the Proud Boys, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zach Rehl, as well as those allegedly associated with the Oath Keepers, Thomas Caldwell, Donovan Crowl, and Jessica Watkins. The larger organizations of Proud Boys International, LLC, and the Oath Keepers are also named as defendants. 

Racine says the goal of the lawsuit is to receive “full restitution and recompense” for the city and its law enforcement officers. 

“While some desperately want to rewrite history and sweep the events of January 6 under the rug, the District of Columbia and its residents have chosen to speak truth through this filing,” Racine said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “So to our law enforcement officers who were injured in the course of stopping a violent mob hell bent on taking away our freedoms, again, restitution and recompense, those are American values.”

The Justice Department has brought conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for their alleged participation in the attack. Prosecutors have called their probe into January 6 “unprecedented” in scale, and the government has said in court that the Capitol attack “is likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.” 

The lawsuit is being litigated by the D.C. Attorney General’s office, but is supported by the States United Democracy Center and the Anti-Defamation League.