A federal grand jury in Virginia has issued indictments against four members of a white supremacist group because of their participation in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the grand jury “returned an indictment charging four California men with conspiring to violate the federal riots statue. The indictment was reported by United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today. It was issued in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The four named defendants are, Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, of Redondo Beach Calif., Thomas Walter Gillen, 24, of Redondo Beach, Calif., Michael Paul Miselis, 29, of Lawndale, Calif., and Cole Evan White, 24, of Clayton, Calif.. They were arrested on federal criminal complaints in the early morning hours of October 2, 2018.
Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Riots Act and one count of traveling in interstate commerce from California to Virginia with the intent to incite a riot, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, to commit an act of violence in furtherance of a riot, or aid or abet any person inciting and participating in or carrying on in a riot.
The “Unite the Right” rally organized in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, was a white supremacist demonstration that brought in protesters from around the country. They were protesting the removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park (formerly known as Lee Park) in downtown Charlottesville.
There were hundreds of protesters and also hundreds of counter-protesters who faced off against each other for hours before the rally was scheduled to begin. There were reports of incidents of violence as physical scuffles took place and both sides were spraying pepper spray on each other.
The Charlottesville police had declared the rally an unlawful assembly before it even began in the hope that the crowd would disperse and each side would go its separate way. Instead violence erupted which resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Hayer when one of the white supremacists drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
The federal indictments are not connected to the death of Hayer. However, the four defendants may also face additional charges linked to attacks against an African-American man, two women, and a minister at the event.
The indicted are part of a larger white supremacist group out of Southern California known as the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a group that is known for inciting violence. According to ProPublica, RAM says that their primary purpose is ‘physically attacking its ideological foes.’
According to the new press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office,
“RAM openly identified as “alt-right” and “nationalist” and its members and associates frequently posted photographs and videos of themselves engaging in physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques, along with references to their alt-right and nationalist beliefs and ideology.”
“The indictment alleges that RAM members and associates also expressed, through various social media platforms and other means, anti-Semitic, racist, and white supremacist views and promoted violence against those who they believed held opposing political views.”
RAM was also present at rallies in San Bernardino, Berkeley and a pro-Trump rally in Huntington Beach, California last year, where violence also ensued. The four may face additional charges in connection with their alleged involvement in violence at those events.