Four California Men Accused of Inciting Riots in Charlottesville Violence

Protesters carrying torches marched through the University of Virginia campus the night before the rally.CreditEdu Bayer for The New York Times

By Katie Brenner and Hawes Spencer

WASHINGTON — Four men from California described as “serial rioters” were charged with inciting a riot during last summer’s white supremacist rally and deadly counterprotests in Charlottesville, Va., federal law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

The men traveled from California and repeatedly attacked the counterprotesters, resulting in serious injuries in some cases, and took part in a torchlight march a night earlier that also resulted in violence, the officials said.

The four men are members of the California-based Rise Above Movement, a militant white-supremacist organization, according to federal law enforcement officials. They were identified as Cole Evan White, 24; Benjamin Drake Daley, 25; Michael Paul Miselis, 29; and Thomas Walter Gillen, 34. Each was accused of inciting a riot and conspiracy. The counts each carry a maximum five-year prison sentence.

The rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, which brought together far-right groups under the banner Unite the Right, devolved into violence and set off a national firestorm further stoked by President Trump blaming all sides.

At that time, white supremacist groups were protesting the removal of Confederate monuments across the South, and several hundred people gathered to demonstrate against the City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The evening before the rally, participants held a torch-lit march that quickly devolved into physical altercations as the marchers yelled racist taunts and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. The police and the National Guard were brought in to establish order, and the governor declared a state of emergency.

Mr. Trump painted the violence as a result of bad behavior on “many sides.” Even after he condemned the violence, Mr. Trump refused to criticize white nationalists and said that the demonstrators also included “some very fine people.”

Civil rights advocates rebuked Mr. Trump, Republicans rushed to condemn the resurgence of white supremacist rallies and others aligned with the White House withdrew their support, including several corporate executives, prompting the president to disband a pair of business advisory councils.

Another rally-goer, James Alex Fields Jr., was indicted in June on hate crime charges in the death of one of the counterprotesters, Heather Heyer. Prosecutors said he targeted and mowed down counterprotesters with his car and was motivated to harm them because of their race, religion and national origin.

Mr. Fields also faces first-degree murder charges in state court. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.