RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two Richmond residents are suing the white supremacist group accused of vandalizing the Arthur Ashe mural in Battery Park, claiming a conspiracy to violate their civil rights that led them and their children to lose sleep and avoid the nearby park.

The federal civil lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of the residents by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and partners, comes weeks after videos showed two people defacing the mural nearly a year after the vandalism took place.

The videos uploaded on YouTube by Unicorn Riot, an independent media collective, show two people with face masks on spray painting over the colorful mural of Arthur Ashe and tagging it with insignias tied to the white supremacist group Patriot Front.

Two unnamed residents living in the Battery Park neighborhood filed the lawsuit against Patriot Front, its leaders and its members.

Police have not charged anyone and an investigation is ongoing, but Unicorn Riot named Patriot Front members it believes were involved. 8News has not independently verified the identities of those accused, who were also named in the lawsuit.

The residents claim the vandalism of the Ashe mural was part of the group’s campaign “to promote their extreme and racist credo” and a deliberate effort to intimidate the Battery Park community, which the lawsuit notes is “a historically Black neighborhood.”

“Responding to directives from the group’s leaders, Patriot Front’s members have defaced murals honoring Black Americans, targeted LGBTQ+ events, and destroyed public and private property as part of their campaign to promote their extreme and racist credo,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges Patriot Front and its members violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was passed to provide Black people with protections against intimidation and violence, and Virginia code that bans racially motivated harassment or intimidation.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, identified as long-term residents of the Battery Park neighborhood, regularly visited the nearby park with their families before the mural was defaced. The suit claims they lost sleep, felt anxious and avoided the park after it was vandalized.

“As a result of the Defendants’ actions, Plaintiffs and their children substantially curtailed or even eliminated their use of the Park, feeling compelled to avoid the Park’s playground, paths, basketball and tennis courts, and other available amenities,” the lawsuit states.

One of the plaintiffs skipped watching fireworks at the park, which they had previously done, and didn’t allow their children to visit the park alone anymore, the suit alleges.

The other plaintiff “regularly considered placing their oldest child in therapy as a result of the stress and anxiety the child felt because of the vandalism,” the lawsuit states. They also didn’t feel it was safe to allow a minor family member from walking their dog near the park after the mural was defaced, the suit says.

Several parts of the Ashe mural were covered with paint and racist graffiti last October. The Richmond Parks and Recreation Department said then that the white nationalist symbols were found on both sides of Arthur Ashe’s face as well as inside the tunnel on excerpts about his life.

arthur ashe mural vandalism patriot front
A member of the 8News team saw that both sides of the tunnel had been vandalized on Thursday morning. “Patriot Front,” an American white supremacist group, was tagged on the mural. Photo from Oct. 21, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (Photo: 8News reporter Tyler Thrasher)

The two culprits are seen in the videos spray painting over excerpts in the tunnel detailing Ashe’s life, including one that read, “Ashe won the Wimbledon finals, becoming the first African-American male to be ranked #1 in the world.”

The city’s mural honoring Ashe, a tennis legend and Richmond native, was put near the segregated tennis courts he practiced on and was meant to revitalize Battery Park’s tunnel.

After the videos were released online, Richmond police said the footage “changes the nature of” the department’s investigation and could help apprehend the culprits. A department spokesperson said Wednesday the investigation into the vandalism is ongoing.

The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to keep Patriot Front “from future violations of rights guaranteed by federal and state law,” damages in an amount to be decided at trial, attorney fees and other costs. The lawsuit demands a jury trial.