White nationalists, carrying the Identity Evropa flag, pass a militia member at a rally in Charlottesville [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Federal prosecutors and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, DC, colluded with far-right groups in cases against anti-Trump protesters, a recently filed lawsuit alleges.
Filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) last week, the lawsuit against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Karl Racine in the US Attorney’s office seeks information about the relationship between the prosecutors and police and right-wing political groups.
“The police here are really serving the political goals of these far-right organisations,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director and constitutional rights lawyer at PCJF, told Al Jazeera.
“We are seeing a pattern of this taking place around the country,” she said.
“While there have always been members of police departments who have acted out in abusive and racist behaviour against the civilian population, we’re now seeing it at an institutional level.”
The lawsuit refers to prosecutors’ introduction of “doctored” video into evidence during the trial of six defendants who were facing decades behind bars for their alleged participation in a rally against President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Those defendants were found not guilty in December 2017, but there was widespread criticism of the evidence provided by Project Veritas, a right-wing NGO known for targeting leftists and anti-fascists.
The defendants were part of a group of more than 230 people who were arrested and charged with a slew of felonies owing to their alleged participation in the rally.
Last month, the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, dropped charges against 129 of the 188 people who were still on trial, saying that it intended to focus on charges against 59 defendants instead.
“To date, despite multiple inquiries, the DC MPD is withholding and refusing to make public information that would shed light on the nature and extent of the relationship between the DC MPD, its officers, and private political non-governmental entities from whom it accepts information to be used against those entities’ political opponents,” the lawsuit states.
It accuses the District of Columbia of “unlawfully” denying a request to provide information the PCJF sought in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed in November 2017. The MPD has refused to respond to the request, according to PCJF.
“The DC MPD and its officers have worked with and received information from private, politically motivated, right-wing organisations including Project Veritas and Oath Keepers to be used against the political opponents of those organisations,” the lawsuit continues.
|Police fire pepper spray on protesters during a demonstration after Trump’s inauguration [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]|
It goes on to inquire about police working with the Oath Keepers, a pro-Trump militia group that has been involved in violent demonstrations against anti-fascists and anti-racists.
“When you have far-right political organisations that are acting in pursuit of their own political goals, which include acting against their political opponents, the police are really acting in their service when they work with them,” Verheyden-Hilliard said.
Contacted by Al Jazeera, the MPD declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The same week the PCJF filed the FOIA, Project Veritas was exposed by the Washington Post for attempting to plant a false story in the newspaper.
The Post reported that a woman employed by Project Veritas claimed that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had impregnated a woman as a teenager.
Verheyden-Hilliard described Project Veritas as a “completed discredited” group.
She argued that police collusion with the organisation was part of a “targeted crackdown on social justice advocates, anti-fascists and environmental activists in the US”.
A key piece evidence against me and other J20 defendants is a video that comes from Project Veritas.
A group known to pal around with nazis & in Nov was caught trying to undermine the credibility of allegations against Roy Moore of sexual assault https://t.co/nvyP3q69eZ pic.twitter.com/svDE1JTZMJ
— Dylan Petrohilos 🏴 (@dpetrohilos) February 14, 2018
The lawsuit came a week after court documents demonstrated that police investigating a violent neo-Nazi rally worked with white supremacists to identify counterprotesters.
‘Police emboldened the Nazis’
The documents, filed earlier this month, accuse police of attempting to conceal the identity of a white supremacist.
Yvette Felarca, whose legal name is Yvonne, is one of three anti-fascist activists who were charged over their alleged involvement in the counter-demonstration against a June 2016 neo-Nazi rally organised by the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and Golden State Skinheads in Sacramento, California.
Felarca is an organiser with By Any Means…
Authored by Glen McStanly