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4 men charged in connection with violent 2017 Charlottesville rally

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 19: Thousands of counter protesters march to a planned 'Free Speech Rally' on Boston Common on August 19, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Thousands of demonstrators and counter-protestors are expected at Boston Common where the Boston Free Speech Rally is being held. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Four alleged members of a militant white supremacist group have been charged with inciting rioting and assaulting counterprotesters at last year’s deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to court documents.

A criminal complaint filed in US District Court for the Western District of Virginia identified the California men as Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Miselis, Thomas Walter Gillen and Cole Evan White.

US Attorney Thomas Cullen described the men as “serial rioters,” saying they also engaged in acts of violence at California political rallies last year in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and other cities.

The four men are accused of traveling from California to Charlottesville for the rally “with intent (a) to incite a riot, (b) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, (c) as having ‘participated in violent encounters in Charlottesville,'” the complaint said.

The defendants were identified in the complaint as members and associates of the Rise Above Movement, a militant white supremacist organization based in Southern California.

The criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday called the defendants “among the most violent individuals” at the Charlottesville rally.

The men face rioting and conspiracy charges, with maximum prison sentences of five years on each count, according to Cullen. The prosecutor said the investigation is ongoing, and additional arrests are possible.

The violence at the August 2017 event began ahead of a planned rally that the Southern Poverty Law Center described as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades.”

On their way to the Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park, Daly, Masellas, Gillis and White had “hands taped ready to do street battle, committed multiple acts of violence, including punching, kicking, headbutting and pushing numerous people,” the complaint said.

Their victims included an African-American man, two women and a minister wearing a clerical collar, Cullen said. Some were seriously injured.

Cullen said investigators spent months reviewing digital evidence in the case, including social media posts, photos and videos.

White allegedly used a torch as a weapon and Daley boasted on social media of hitting five people at a torch-lit rally, the complaint said.

RAM members openly identify themselves on social media as “alt-right” and “nationalist” and frequently post videos and photos of them performing physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques “in order to prepare to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies,” the complaint said.

Three of the defendants were expected to appear in federal court later Tuesday. It’s unclear if they have attorneys.

The complaint includes numerous photos of the defendants engaging in violence at rallies.

Scuffles and fistfights broke out over that weekend before a man drove a silver Dodge Charger into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, 32, a local paralegal whose father said she was always fighting for others.

An Ohio man accused of driving the car was charged with second-degree murder in Heyer’s death.

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