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Patriot Front and its founder, Thomas Rousseau, are defendants in the case concerning the damage to the mural of Ashe, a Black tennis player, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia.
The white nationalist group that defaced an Arthur Ashe mural years ago failed to respond to a lawsuit, leading to a default judgment that could make them liable for potential damages.
According to The Daily Beast, Patriot Front and its founder, Thomas Rousseau, are defendants in the case concerning the damage to the mural of Ashe, a Black tennis player located in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia.
Attorney Arthur Ago, whose group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is defending the plaintiffs, claimed that Patriot Front’s destruction of the mural goes way beyond vandalism.
“It was a discriminatory, race-based act meant to both threaten the residents of the Battery Park neighborhood and deprive them of the use of the park,” said Ago, The Daily Beast reported. “The court’s entry of default against the Patriot Front and its national director, Thomas Rousseau, is an important first step in our clients’ effort to hold this white supremacist group accountable.”
Patriot Front militants sprayed over the mural of Ashe in 2021. Ashe’s visage and a plaque identifying him as “the first African-American man inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame” were painted over with the supremacist’s logo on camera. In the footage, a man calls Ashe a “f*****g n****r.”
Two Richmond homeowners who live close to the park claimed in a lawsuit filed last year that the vandalism was an intimidation tactic. The unnamed plaintiffs claim Patriot Front has targeted the predominantly Black community and making residents feel unsafe.
The case does not include all of the alleged Patriot Front members.
Some defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case with the assistance of Glen Allen, an attorney who had paid dues to the neo-Nazi organization National Alliance. In 2016, it came to light that Allen, who did not respond to a request for comment, contributed to the fascist organization and purchased tickets to their “Holocaust Revisionist Conference.”
He later collaborated with other hate groups, representing Patriot Front in a different court case in Washington.
Lawyers contended that the defacement of the Arthur Ashe mural was comprehensible, given the vandalism of sculptures of confederate generals in a petition to dismiss, filed on behalf of several defendants — not including Rousseau or Patriot Front.
According to the motion to dismiss, they claimed vandalism occurred in a political atmosphere where confederate general statues, including those of General Lee, were severely vandalized with what appeared to be impunity.
“One may not approve of General Lee or the cause for which he fought,” the filing reads, “but it remains true that many citizens admire him and many more strongly disapprove of the defacement of his and other statues of Confederate Generals and political leaders.”
The filing points out that the subject is undoubtedly one where feelings are strong and hasty decisions could be made. In light of the surrounding circumstances, the vandalism described in the lawsuit could be an “ill-conceived protest against the defacement and removal of Confederate statues, not as an attempt with the conscious and specific objective […] of denying African-American persons, or anyone else, use of the park.”
Patriot Front has faced numerous legal troubles recently, including the conviction of five members last month for planning to riot at an LGBTQ pride celebration in Idaho.
Rousseau, scheduled to appear in court next month as part of a small-batch trial, and 30 additional Patriot Front members were detained in the purported scheme.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claim the case attempts to hold Patriot Front responsible for their growing campaign of intimidation and vandalism and convey that communities won’t accept their vile behavior.
Arusha Gordon, the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate’s associate director, said the group moved from posting flyers and stickers on college campuses to outright property destruction and in-person marches that have allegedly led to assaults against persons of color.
“History has shown us that, when left unchecked, hateful activity will grow and escalate,” added Gordon, The Daily Beast reported. “That is clear when looking at the pattern of Patriot Front’s behavior.”
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