Murrell v. Patriot Front, et al.

Seeking accountability for violent extremism

On July 2, 2022, Thomas Rousseau led a group of Patriot Front members in a march without a city permit along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail.  Patriot Front members wore neck gaiters to conceal their identities and carried large homemade shields that could be used as weapons.

When encountering Charles Murrell III on the sidewalk, Patriot Front members shouted a racial slur, and then physically attacked him, pushing him against a street pole and beating him with their shields, feet, and fists.

This attack is a concrete example of the violence Patriot Front, and similar neo-Nazi groups, routinely perpetrate to intimidate minority groups and further their racist ideology. As an African-American man, Murrell was a target of this white supremacist group.

Human Rights First is proud to join the law firm of Foley Hoag in filing this lawsuit against Patriot Front, its leader Thomas Rousseau, and multiple other members of that hate group, as the attack is antithetical to America’s multi-cultural democracy and demands accountability.

The lawsuit, filed on August 8, 2023 in the United States District Court in Boston, alleges that the defendants conspired to interfere with Murrell’s civil rights, in violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act (42 USC 1985(3)), the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, and other related state laws.

Charles Murrell III is an African-American musician and composer, a youth educator and former special education teacher, and a member of the Boston community.

On July 2, 2022, he was on his way to Copley Square to play Bach on his saxophone when he was targeted on the basis of race and violently attacked by Patriot Front, a neo-Nazi group.

Charles was injured in this attack and suffers to this day.  He is participating in this lawsuit to seek accountability from Patriot Front as well as broader societal change.     

Patriot Front, a neo-Nazi hate group, was formed in 2017 when its members splintered from Vanguard America in the wake of that hate group’s deadly racial violence at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

Patriot Front believes that only descendants of Europeans can be considered true Americans, and calls on its membership to lead a revolution that will create an entirely white country.  They use pseudo-patriotic propaganda and props to appear pro-American while simultaneously espousing hate.  They distribute flyers with hate messages, march through downtown city areas and commit acts of violence.  

Thomas Rousseau, formerly the de facto leader of Vanguard America, is the founder and leader of Patriot Front. Rousseau organized, planned, and led Patriot Front’s march on Boston on July 2, 2022 and was part of the group that attacked Mr. Murrell.     

John Does 1-99 are the masked and as yet unidentified Patriot Front members who planned and participated in the July 2, 2022 Patriot Front march through Boston, including those who attacked Mr. Murrell.

Licha Nyiendo

Chief Legal Officer at Human Rights First, Nyiendo previously served as the Commissioner for the New York State Division of Human Rights, the chief executive of the state agency responsible for enforcing New York’s Human Rights Law.  Nyiendo is a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.


Kareem Shora

Executive Vice President, Programs and Policy at Human Rights First, Shora previously served as the acting Deputy Director for Programs and Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3). Shore helped implement DHS’s public-health approach to violence prevention, with special attention to Domestic Violent Extremism (DVE) and its impact on American communities.  He spent over a decade leading the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) community engagement section.


Amy Spitalnick

A Senior Advisor on Extremism at Human Rights First, Spitalnick served as Executive Director of Integrity First for America, which won a groundbreaking lawsuit against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the Charlottesville violence. She is currently CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.


Erin Wilson

Wilson serves as Senior Director for Extremism and Human Rights at Human Rights First. She previously served as Director of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative, The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity. She also served as the Washington, DC Attorney General’s Senior Policy Advisor on social and racial justice, hate, and domestic extremism.


Michael Breen

President & CEO of Human Rights First, Breen launched a series of impactful new initiatives to oppose antidemocratic extremism with a rights-based approach, including the organization’s Impact Litigation program.

Photos: © Boston Herald by Stuart Cahill & Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images