By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The city of Washington, D.C., sued right-wing groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on Tuesday, seeking to collect on the financial costs of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath.
The suit aims to hold accountable the groups that helped to organize a rally by thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump that evolved into an assault on Congress aiming to stop it from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine told reporters the defendants had caused physical and financial harm to Washington and its residents, adding that the city will seek “severe” financial penalties against the defendants.
“Our intent … is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage we can,” he said at a news conference.
The lawsuit seeks to recover the costs of deploying hundreds of city police officers to defend the Capitol against the attack, as well as medical and paid-leave costs incurred afterward.
It also brings civil assault and battery charges against the two organizations, along with 30 named and 50 unnamed people it alleges were involved in the assault.
The lawsuit opens up another legal front against alleged participants in the Jan. 6 attack.
Four people died and hundreds were injured during the multi-hour onslaught, and one police officer died the next day of injuries sustained while defending Congress. Four officers who were at the Capitol that day have since taken their own lives.
Nearly 700 people face criminal charges stemming from the event. Several alleged leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty.
The lawsuit invokes the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which allows people to sue for civil rights violations. It does not name Trump or former members of his administration as defendants.
It is not clear whether the two groups are in a position to defend themselves, or whether the lawsuit will yield any financial penalties.
Racine and other District officials said they hoped it would also serve as a warning to deter similar behavior by other extremist groups.
“If we don’t get a penny in restitution, this lawsuit’s deterrent effect will say, ‘Be prepared to spend money, because we are coming after you,'” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District in the House of Representatives.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, additional reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Scott Malone, Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot)