Charles Murrell III, a Black music teacher and musician, was near Boston Public Library on July 2, 2022, when he was approached and beaten by a group of Patriot Front members, the suit alleges.
The white supremacist group performed a march down the Boston Freedom Trail carrying banners reading “Reclaim America” and fascist imagery. The suit alleges that the group encountered Murrell on the sidewalk and proceeded to punch, kick and beat him with their metal shields.
The men were unidentifiable due to face coverings except for the group’s leader, Thomas Ryan Rousseau.
The suit alleges Rousseau and the group violated Murrell’s civil rights and seeks civil damages for physical and emotional distress.
“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,” Murrell said in a statement.
“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.”
Over 30 members of the group, including Rousseau, were arrested last June — a few weeks before the Boston march — in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on charges of conspiracy to riot at a pro-LGBTQ rally in the town.
“Patriot Front’s demonstrations in Boston were racially motivated and the product of considerable planning and coordination,” the suit reads. “Patriot Front members who marched along Boston’s Freedom Trail and in the shadow of historic Boston buildings and landmarks were primed and ready to commit acts of violence against any perceived opponents that crossed their path.”
Murrell claims in the suit that he continues to suffer emotional distress from the attack, including “routine” nightmares and flashbacks.
Nobody has been criminally charged for Murrell’s beating, but an investigation is still open, local prosecutors told The Associated Press.
Human Rights First, a nonprofit that has joined the suit, said it is intended to stop the organization.
“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,” Human Rights First attorney Licha Nyiendo said. “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.”
The suit lists the history of the group, including its founding after the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right march and its split from a larger white supremacist group. It also lists actions the group has taken credit for, including defacing monuments and murals to Black figures.
A similar suit resulted in a $25 million judgment against the organizers of that Charlottesville rally in 2021. Advocates for Murrell’s case want the same outcome.
“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,” Human Rights First advisor Amy Spitalnick said.
“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,” she added.