NAACP Sues Donald Trump Over U.S. Capitol Riot

The NAACP filed suit against former president Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani Tuesday (Feb. 16), accusing them of breaking a 150-year-old law initially developed to target racist hate groups.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on behalf of Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, accuses Trump, Giuliani and two groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, alleging that by inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, they violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan act.

In a statement, the NAACP said the defendants launched a “carefully orchestrated” plan to employ threats, intimidation and harassment to stop the votes of the Electoral College in the 2020 election from being certified. Throngs of violent rioters stormed into the capitol building last month, laying siege to it, vandalizing rooms, and forcing legislators to take cover for hours. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the fracas. Congress resumed certifying the votes early the next morning, solidifying the electoral victory for Joe Biden.

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Trump was impeached, accused by House members of inciting the riot through incendiary rhetoric at a rally just prior to the violence. But on Saturday (Feb. 13) he was acquitted when the Senate fell short of enough votes to convict him.

However, the NAACP and Thompson, citing the 19th century law, say Trump used the tactics outlined in it. The Ku Klux Klan Act was introduced March 28, 1871 by Ohio Rep. Samuel Shellabarger at a time during Reconstruction when hate groups, fearful of Blacks competing with whites for jobs and opportunities, terrorized people who were only a few years out of enslavement and seeking ways to survive.

According to The New York Times, the act was meant to support the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees due process under the law. But the act was also a response to the Klan threatening southern Congress members from carrying out their responsibilities under the Constitution, which NAACP lawyers said happened during the Capitol siege.

“January 6th was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history, and it was instigated by the President himself. His gleeful support of violent white supremacists led to a breach of the Capitol that put my life, and that of my colleagues, in grave danger. It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier,” said Thompson in the statement. “While the majority of Republicans in the Senate abdicated their responsibility to hold the President accountable, we must hold him accountable for the insurrection that he so blatantly planned. Failure to do so will only invite this type of authoritarianism for the anti-democratic forces on the far right that are so intent on destroying our country.”

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During the impeachment trial, House members said that Trump, who has falsely insisted since the November election that he was the winner, tried to deny voters their right to have their votes cast. Biden won the election heartily, 306-232 electoral votes, and 81 million votes to Trump’s 74 million. The legislators said Trump’s attempt to reverse the election would have thrown out millions of legitimate votes.

“The insurrection was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated, months-long plan to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election, and to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of African-American voters who cast valid ballots,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “We are now bringing this case to continue our work to protect our democracy and make sure nothing like what happened on January 6th ever happens again.”

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