Supreme Court Won’t Overturn White Supremacist Riot Charges On ‘Free Speech’ Grounds

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It could be bad news for participants in the January Capitol riot — the Supreme Court has refused to take a case arguing that the Anti-Riot Act violates free speech rights. Two men convicted for participation in the Charlottesville rally that turned deadly in 2017 won’t get to argue that they were protected under the First Amendment when they joined a mob to invoke terror and promote right-wing extremism.

Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part a the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, VA, white supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus. (Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

According to Huffpost, Michael Miselis and Benjamin Daley pled guilty to riot charges after admitting to punching and kicking counter-protestors, but appealed their cases claiming that the Anti-Riot Act is too broad and attacks free speech.

The Supreme Court refused to take the case, however, leaving standing the ruling from an appeals court that affirmed the convictions.

The Justice Department release, upon sentencing of the two and a third party, one Thomas Gillen, in 2019, named all three as members of a white supremacist group, the Rise Above Movement (RAM). The release quoted United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen as saying the three ” were not interested in peaceful protest or lawful First Amendment expression; instead, they intended to provoke and engage in street battles with those that they perceived as their enemies.”

The Daily Progress reported last year that an appeals court had rejected the bid by Miselas and Daley to overturn their convictions, agreeing that some of the law might indeed be overbroad, particularly parts about speech itself inciting or encouraging a riot, but determining that it was irrelevant in the case of these defendants, who had admitted to committing acts of violence as part of the riot.

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