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D.C. attorney general tries to bankrupt far-right extremists into oblivion

Washington D.C. Attorney Karl Racine is right to sue the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — but the work can’t stop there.


Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine on Tuesday sued two far-right extremist groups, accusing them of organizing and participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection. He left no mystery as to why he’s taking this approach. 

Racine said the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction-era law that allows for civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages against those who seek to interfere with government proceedings.

Here’s an excerpt from his remarks: 

Our intent, as we indicated, is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage that we can. Let me tell you: If it so happens that we bankrupt them, then that’s a good day. When hate is dispatched and eliminated, that’s a good day. So yes, we’re using the Ku Klux Klan Act and other laws to absolutely bring as much financial pain — hit ‘em in the pocket — as possible.

The KKK Act was created after the Civil War to protect emancipated Black people from being terrorized by the Klan.

“The history will show that when these acts like the KKK act and other laws were used against hate groups — what did they do? What do cowards do? They go running,” Racine said. “They go hiding. They get decentralized, and frankly, they’re less dangerous.”

He’s right about the history. The KKK Act played a major role in disempowering and decentralizing the Klan in the late-19th century. More recently, the act was used this year in a successful lawsuit against organizers of 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s also been cited in an ongoing lawsuit against former President Donald Trump that charges him with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Photo illustration of DC Attorney General Karl Racine and a Proud Boys member.
Justine Goode / MSNBC

Hitting hate groups in their pockets can be an effective way of lessening their power. But in the age of the internet, a decentralized hate group can still do damage. Right-wing extremists today can be loosely affiliated groups of like-minded thinkers who meet up online. 

As the Southern Poverty Law Center put it in a report this year:

Many extremist ideologues are not formal members of any organization. Online platforms allow individuals to interact with hate and antigovernment groups without joining them, as well as to form connections and talk with likeminded people. And, despite the lack of formal affiliation, these individuals still take real-world actions.

For example, the SPLC found a significant decline in the number of Ku Klux Klan organizations as of 2020.

“​​Unfortunately, those declining numbers do not reflect a parallel reduction in support for their ideas,” the report said

We know that conservative extremists, from the Proud Boys to Steve Bannon, are trying to localize and proliferate their movements using ginned-up outrage over school lesson plans and Covid safety measures to Trojan horse themselves into power. 

I hope states take on plans to sue hate groups into oblivion just as Racine and others before him have done. It’ll be equally important to ensure that the splintered pieces resulting from their demolition don’t become dangerous as well. 

Related posts:

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White nationalists held a buffoonish rally — but there’s nothing funny about it

Rep. Matt Gaetz, possible sex trafficker, vows to investigate his investigators

Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.