Federal judge has defended protesters who allegedly hit D.C. police officers at hate-fest

The attorney representing the organizer of an alleged racist and far-right rally in Washington, D.C. that led to the arrests of six men this weekend argued that his client should be spared jail time due to his limited criminal record and “openminded views on diversity,” he told The Washington Post on Sunday. Posing as he would for a comic book story, attorney Benjamin Wittes responded to a reporter who asked whether his client, who is out on bail, was allowed to protest but had previously been denied an earlier permit due to his past. “I’m not allowed to discuss specifics of this case in public, but my client is clearly an open-minded person and was simply exercising a liberty and right he had as an American citizen to peacefully protest in front of the White House and make his case,” Wittes explained. The same could not be said for Yevgeniy Nikulin, the Washington attorney representing the Proud Boys, who was charged on Friday with rioting. Under a probable cause statement filed with the District of Columbia Superior Court, Nikulin allegedly punched and kicked officers at the scene of the violence. The Post reported that police had also confiscated him from a nearby bar that night.

I wrote last year about Nikulin’s efforts to drum up his far-right supporters to storm the federal courthouse building in Alexandria, Virginia, and use it as a setting for a demonstration that was subsequently called off. Nikulin’s fiancée, Clare Lockhart, was also charged with rioting after failing to show up for a pre-rally meeting at the office of Scott Usher, an attorney, to form a group. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Lockhart said that she and her fiancée had read a manifesto for the rally and recognized there would be a problem when they began reaching out to public figures, like Gab founder Andrew Torba. “Gab’s space is being taken over by people who are willing to put their safety at risk and let their civil liberties be endangered. This type of speech cannot be tolerated,” she had reportedly written. Usher, the official who was charged with resisting arrest, has had run-ins with the Proud Boys before. He apparently had invited his office to his Washington apartment, where they were arrested. Usher told the Post that he has received death threats and was told he should kill himself.


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