US federal authorities announced Tuesday they had charged four members of a California-based white supremacist group with inciting violence at last year’s deadly march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The men had “traveled to Charlottesville to encourage, promote, incite, participate in and commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot,” the criminal complaint filed in a Charlottesville court read.
The four men were arrested early Tuesday morning after they were identified in pictures and videos that showed them attacking counterprotesters at the August 2017 rally. The indictment said the assaults in some cases led to serious injury.
An FBI affidavit described the men as “among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville.”
The multi-day rally held there, under the slogan “Unite the Right,” saw torch-wielding neo-Nazis, extreme-right supporters and white supremacists march through the streets of the university town. One person died and 19 were injured after a man drove his car into counterprotestors.
Prior to the Charlottesville rally, the four Californians had attacked counterprotestors at other political gatherings in their home state.
The men are members of the Rise Above Movement, a southern California group that espouses white supremacist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. According to the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI affidavit, the group “operates like a street-fighting club,” with members doing martial arts training to undergo battle with its opponents.
District Attorney Thomas Cullen described the four men as “serial rioters” and said that the group’s “extensive” social media presence documents its past violent actions.
“This is a group that essentially subscribes to an anti-Semitic, racist ideology, and then organizes, trains, and deploys to various political rallies, not only to espouse this particular ideology but also to engage in acts of violence against folks who are taking a contrary point of view,” Cullen said at a news conference announcing the charges.
According to the attorney, the men could face up to ten years in prison if convicted on the two counts each of them faces. The trial could begin by the end of the year.
The investigation that led to the four men’s arrests was aided by the ProPublica investigative journalism network and the US public television broadcaster, PBS.
US President Donald Trump took 48 hours to respond the far-right violence at Charlottesville and then proceeded to blame violence “on both sides.”