A man who just wanted to play his saxophone outside the Copley Square library on a warm day last summer but was instead beaten by white supremacists yesterday sued the group, its Charlottesville-organizing leader and the masked "John Does" he says beat him.
In his suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, Charles Murrell III says he continues to suffer effects from the beating at Dartmouth and Stuart streets by khaki-wearing Patriot Front toughs wielding the metal shields they had unloaded from a rental truck near Haymarket:
Since the attack on July 2, Mr. Murrell has been plagued by severe anxiety, mental anguish, invasive thoughts, and emotional distress, including, but not limited to, persistent concern for his physical safety and loss of sleep. The incident incessantly haunts Mr. Murrell - he routinely has nightmares and flash backs about the attack, which makes him feel like he is constantly having to relive it. For example, every time Mr. Murrell goes to open his music composition book, which was on his person on July 2, 2022, he sees residue of his own blood spattered on the cover - a gruesome reminder of the attack.
The suit is the first legal action over Murrell's beating by men who profess to want a white-only America. A few days after the attack, then US Attorney Rachael Rollins and Mayor Wu vowed to find and prosecute the masked men who beat Murrell, but to date nobody has been criminally charged.
In the lawsuit, Murrell's attorneys at Foley Hoag say Patriot Front leader and founder Thomas Rousseau - who also helped organize the deadly Charlottesville Nazi riots in 2017 - began organizing the Boston march months in advance:
What happened to Mr. Murrell was no accident. For years, Patriot Front - an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center - has publicly and privately advocated for the use of violence against those who disagree with its express goal of creating an entirely "white" United States. And for years, under the leadership of Thomas Rousseau, Patriot Front has trained its members to commit acts of violence against its perceived opponents. Indeed, video footage created by Patriot Front that came to light in early 2022 shows Patriot Front's members practicing using their shields in concert to harm innocent bystanders in the exact manner that Patriot Front members used them against Mr. Murrell on July 2, 2022.
Patriot Front's demonstrations in Boston were racially motivated and the product of considerable planning and coordination. 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. Mr. Murrell happened upon the mob of Patriot Front members on the sidewalk in Back Bay on July 2, 2022, where he became a victim of their hate.
By engaging in coordinated, pre-planned, and racially motivated violence against Mr. Murrell, Patriot Front, its leader Thomas Rousseau, and its members violated the rights and privileges guaranteed to Mr. Murrell by the laws of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Murrell brings this action to recover all the damages he sustained and continues to sustain as a result of Defendants' repugnant and illegal conduct, as well as to punish Defendants for that conduct, thereby serving notice that their racially charged violence will not be tolerated.
The complaint details the group's preparation for their Boston march - which included members taking the Orange Line down from Oak Grove:
Patriot Front began planning for a demonstration on or around Independence Day 2022 at least as far back as December 10, 2021. During a national meeting on December 10, 2021, which followed a recent demonstration, Defendant Thomas Rousseau informed the group that "we will be doing something for Independence Day [in 2022] . . . . Let there be no doubt we will be doing something on Independence Day or the otherwise nearest weekend. So obviously it's quite early, but plan to be available."
On June 8, 2022, Defendant Rousseau again highlighted the weekend of July 4, 2022 as a date on which members of Patriot Front were expected to be available. On that date, Patriot Front released a video on its Telegram social media page of its members engaging in "training," which, according to Patriot Front's post, "included boxing and grappling tournaments, drilling, physical training, workshops, seminars, and presentations." The video footage shows Patriot Front members holding metal shields akin to those wielded by Patriot Front's members on July 2, 2022.
The video footage also depicts Thomas Rousseau watching Patriot Front's members train and stating: "You will have the chance to push yourself to the point of failure today and tomorrow, and you'll be expected to do so. You will receive no such lenience if you reach failure in the presence of our enemies on Independence Day."
Upon information and belief, just as they did in advance of their "flash" march in Washington, D.C. and their planned riot in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Patriot Front, Rousseau, and Patriot Front's members formulated detailed plans for a "flash" demonstration to take place on July 2, 2022 in Boston.
Defendants agreed in advance of July 2, 2022 that, as they had in prior "flash demonstrations" in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Patriot Front's members would descend upon Boston armed with shields - the same shields that Patriot Front's members had specifically trained to use to batter individuals who disagreed with their white supremacist agenda.
Consistent with these plans, on July 2, 2022, the Saturday before the Independence Day holiday, a group of approximately 100 Patriot Front members, including Defendant Rousseau, arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to partake in a "flash demonstration." After assembling, Patriot Front's members paraded through downtown Boston carrying shields, banners displaying the words "Reclaim America," and a wide variety of flags, some of which depicted well-known Mussolini-era fascist imagery. At least one Patriot Front member carried a snare drum and played a military-style cadence to set a tempo while the group marched through the city.
And then, the complaint continues, after swarming the Dartmouth Street side of the Copley library, they were marching to the Back Bay Orange Line stop for the ride back to Oak Grove, when they encountered Murrell, who had just arrived to play Bach on his saxophone outside the library, with no idea he was about to be swarmed by a group of Nazis with metal shields:
[W]hen he saw throngs of masked individuals traveling toward him and carrying shields, signs and flags, he reached for his phone to record the scene.
Before he had a chance to begin recording, however, Mr. Murrell heard one of the masked men utter a derogatory and racist remark. While Mr. Murrell was unfamiliar with the man's terminology (he believes the word "tar" was used), he instantly understood from the man's tone and the reference to "tar" that he was being targeted due to his race. The masked and shield-wielding mob then yelled, together, "DO NOT BREAK OUR RANKS," and quickly surrounded Mr. Murrell. 111. As the mob surrounded Mr. Murrell, Defendant Thomas Rousseau yelled, "RIGHT SCREEN!" Upon information and belief, "right screen" is a command that instructs specific members of Patriot Front's shield guard to begin using their shields in a violent manner.
Using their shields, a number of Patriot Front members began shoving Mr. Murrell on the sidewalk. When Mr. Murrell tried to protect himself, all while telling the men to stop pushing him and move along, a large number of the Patriot Front mob jumped in and pressed Mr. Murrell up against a concrete light post, knocked him to the ground, and continuously hit and kicked him. The assault continued in this manner for several minutes until law enforcement intervened. ... The shield tactics used by Patriot Front's members to batter Mr. Murrell are the same tactics that Patriot Front's members trained to use against bystanders they encounter while marching.
After law enforcement broke up the attack at around 1:30 p.m., the Patriot Front members loaded their materials back into the rental truck, which other members had moved near Back Bay Station, and decamped via the T.
The suit formally charges Rousseau and the masked Patriot Front members conspired to violate his civil rights and then proceeded to do so, committed assault and battery against him and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Murrell seeks a jury trial at which to prove the charges and seek damages.
Complete complaint (1.4M PDF).