Credit: Unicorn Riot
RICHMOND – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and partners filed suit against members of the Patriot Front, an alleged white supremacist group, to hold them accountable for vandalizing and destroying a mural honoring Black hometown tennis legend Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Virginia in October 2021. Plaintiffs are residents of a majority Black Richmond neighborhood and are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, and Paul, Weiss LLP. Defendants include the Patriot Front, National Director Thomas Rousseau, Network Director Paul Gancarz, and Patriot Front members Nathan Noyce and Thomas Dail. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia and includes claims for conspiracy to violate civil rights under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as well as intimidation based on racial animosity under Virginia state law.
“History has shown us that, when left unchecked, hateful activity will grow and escalate. That is clear when looking at the pattern of Patriot Front’s behavior. The group has moved from flyering and stickering on college campuses, to outright property destruction, to in-person marches that have resulted in alleged assaults of people of color,” said Arusha Gordon, Associate Director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate. “Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit to hold the Patriot Front accountable for their escalating campaign of vandalism and intimidation and to send a message that hateful activity will not be tolerated.”
Patriot Front is known as a white supremacist group that calls for the formation of a white ethno-state. Their October 2021 destruction of the Arthur Ashe mural was part of a long campaign of public antagonizing and destruction in Richmond, which included acts of vandalism from the summer of 2021 through Summer 2022. Patriot Front’s ideology is based on a deeply racist belief system shared by its members – that their European ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else. They claim to seek a “return to the traditions and virtues of our [European] forefathers.” Patriot Front announces its presence by, among other activities, spray painting its logos and placing its stickers on public and private property around the country.
The neighborhood surrounding Battery Park is 77.7% Black and 17.5% White. Plaintiffs are Battery Park neighborhood residents that were alarmed by the vandalization of Battery Park starting in the summer of 2021. But the destruction of the Arthur Ashe mural, in a popular public park, converted their feelings of alarm into fear and anger. They became concerned about the presence of Patriot Front members in their neighborhood and curtailed their use of the park. Upset, anxious, and scared, they and their children avoided the playground, walking paths, basketball and tennis courts, and other amenities in the Battey Park area after the October 2021 vandalism to the mural.
“Our clients are defending their neighbors in the face of naked harassment and intimidation. It takes courage to stand up to hate,” said Arthur Ago, Director of the Criminal Justice Project. “Patriot Front’s attempt to erase the life and achievements of Arthur Ashe, a revered son of Richmond, will not go unpunished.”
Read the lawsuit here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org
The James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate, a project of the Lawyers’ Committee, supports communities and individuals targeted for hate and challenges white supremacy by using creative legal advocacy and litigation, disrupting systems that enable hate, and educating the general public and policymakers.