A letter sent by New York Attorney General Letitia James to Cornerstone Church in Batavia, New York, threatened the church in advance of its hosting a ReAwaken America Tour event this past weekend, with investigation and prosecution of “acts of violence, intimidation, threats, or harassment” toward others based on “a belief or perception” of characteristics including “race,” “national origin,” “gender,” and “sexual orientation.”
“As New York’s top law enforcement officer, I have significant concerns that the ReAwaken America Tour’s upcoming event at the Cornerstone Church in Batavia, New York on August 12 and 13 could spur extremist or racially motivated violence,” James said in the letter sent, in care of the church, to Clay Clark, organizer of the tour, and General Michael Flynn, who travels with it.
Legal Insurrection obtained the letter in which the attorney general continued:
These concerns center around the event’s proposed dates, which coincide with the five-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and past extremist statements made by yourselves and the other featured speakers on the tour.
I am especially concerned about featured speakers’ regular allusions to white nationalist ideals connected to the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory that warns of white genocide and efforts to replace native born immigrants. The theory is frequently linked to violent actions, including the racially motivated mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo.
James proceeded to warn the church and tour organizers with possible investigation and prosecution:
The Office of the Attorney General writes to remind you that New York law prohibits racially motivated violence, harassment, or interference with another person in the exercise of their civil rights. New York Civil Rights Law §79-n empowers the Office of the Attorney General to investigate acts of violence, intimidation, threats, or harassment directed at people based on a belief or perception regarding an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation. In addition to actual damages, any person who violates this statute can be held liable for $5,000 in penalties for each violation.
Additionally, New York Civil Rights Law §40-c prohibits discriminating against another person in the exercise of their civil rights – including the right to peacefully protest – based on similar protected characteristics. Finally, New York Executive Law §63(12) empowers the Office of the Attorney General to take action against any business engaged in significant fraud or illegality – including the violation of New York’s civil rights laws.
James concluded her letter with additional threats:
The Office of the Attorney General has a duty to protect New Yorkers from extremist and racially motivated violence. We stand ready to investigate any violation of the laws above and, if necessary, to enforce them to the fullest extent available. You are therefore instructed to take all necessary steps to ensure that the event complies fully with the requirements of New York’s civil rights laws and all other applicable state and federal statutes.
Pastor Paul Doyle of Cornerstone Church said the letter from James “felt like it was trying to bully us,” reported WGRZ News in advance of the event, which featured among its speakers Eric Trump, son of former President Donald Trump.
“She’s basically insinuating that we’re involved in racist activity,” Doyle said, adding he thought the letter bordered on defamation.
The ReAwaken America Tour emphasizes faith, freedom, and family values.
Ahead of the event, Chief Deputy of Road Patrol Brian Frieday of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said the sheriff’s office did not expect violence at the event.
“We do not anticipate any violence from the event attendees, based on talks with event organizers and also from reaching out to police agencies from previous locations,” Frieday said, according to the Daily News.
“We are a Christian church,” Doyle asserted. “My youth pastor is an African American, and we have a number of African Americans in our church. They are insulted by this.”
WGRZ noted the church “was also among the first to respond with food and clothing to residents of the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood in Buffalo, after the racially motivated mass shooting at a Tops Store on May 14.”
“I understand there are extremist groups out there, but if you’re going to call us an extremists group I’d like to see some validity for that … and it’s intimidation right from our government,” Doyle continued. “There’s nothing racist about this event. In fact, there will be, there’s a number of African American speakers as well as Jewish speakers at this event.”
“We are free to assemble and we are free to speak,” he said.
James later released a statement, as reported by WGRZ, in which she doubled down on her comments in her letter to the church, calling the ReAwaken America Tour “nothing but a traveling carnival of hate speech, wild conspiracy theories, and attacks on our democratic process.”
The attorney general added, according to the news report:
Wherever this tour goes, it leaves a trail of divided communities and heightened tensions. I have zero tolerance for racist and hateful rhetoric that urges violence against any New Yorker. To the organizers of this event in Batavia let me be clear: My office will not hesitate to use the full force of the law to clamp down on any racially motivated violence or unlawful conduct.
James also threatened to take legal action if civil rights laws are violated during the event.
While campaigning for office in 2018, James said in a video that, as attorney general, she would make targeting former President Donald Trump a central focus of her efforts.
“I will never be afraid to challenge this illegitimate president,” she said, claiming that “at the eye of the storm” of her perception of the nation’s problems, “is Donald Trump.”
As Legal Insurrection observed:
James held true to her promise, and has targeted Trump and his businesses, advancing to the point that Trump invoked his 5th Amendment privilege while excoriating what he perceives as prosecutorial misconduct in the campaign pledge and follow up.
According to the Daily News, Eric Trump spoke to the crowd of attendees at the ReAwaken America Tour event about the FBI’s raid on his father’s home in Mar-a-Lago and mentioned James as among those who “weaponize politics” against the Trump family:
We had an interesting week this week … I got in my office in Trump Tower — had a great day, it’s beautiful outside, the sun is out. All of a sudden, I get a call from my team down in Mar-a-Lago —”The FBI is raiding us as we speak.” I go, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Most of the time, if anybody was to get a call from somebody saying the FBI is raiding their home, they would be shocked by it. But after the first impeachment, the second impeachment … and the (Robert) Mueller witch hunt and what they do to us every single day and (New York State Attorney General) Letitia James and how they weaponize politics against our family every single day, as the FBI was raiding and rummaging through Melania’s closet, I wasn’t even shocked.
The ReAwaken America Tour event this past weekend had previously been scheduled at the Main Street Armory in Rochester, but was cancelled after the armory received threats from individuals opposing the event.
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