The NAACP on Tuesday morning filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson against former President Donald J. Trump and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The lawsuit argues that the former president and his lawyer violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfere with Congress’s constitutional duties, in conspiring to incite a violent riot at the Capitol.
In the lawsuit, Thompson said he was forced to wear a gas mask and hide on the floor of the House gallery for three hours while hearing “threats of physical violence against any member who attempted to proceed to approve the Electoral College ballot count.” Thompson in the suit said he heard a gunshot, which he did not learn until later had killed a woman who stormed the Capitol.
Thompson, the 72-year-old Democrat and Mississippi’s senior member of Congress, says he was put at an increased health risk by later being required to shelter in place in a cramped area that did not allow for social distancing with two members of Congress who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Thompson is seeking an unspecified financial amount in damages in the lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington.
“I feared for my life,” Thompson told The New York Times. “Not a day passes that I don’t think about this incident. I was committed to seeing justice brought to this situation.”
He added: “This is me, and hopefully others, having our day in court to address the atrocities of Jan. 6. I trust the better judgment of the courts because obviously Republican members of the Senate could not do what the evidence overwhelmingly presented.”
The U.S. Senate last week acquitted Trump after the U.S. House impeached him on a count of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. On that day, a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and disrupted lawmakers as they were certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election that Democrat Joe Biden overwhelmingly won.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday also named far-right militia groups The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Derrick Johnson, national president of the NAACP and Mississippi native, told the Times his organization filed the lawsuit to fight back against white supremacy.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Ku Klux Klan that bankrupted a chapter,” Johnson said, referring to a 2008 judgment against a Kentucky-based Klan outfit that ordered the group to pay $2.5 million in damages. “This is very similar. If we do nothing, we can be ensured these groups will continue to spread and grow in their boldness. We must curb the spread of white supremacy.”