In an incident captured on video and widely shared online, a black man was beaten by several white attackers in a parking garage during August’s rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, the man, DeAndre Harris, is facing an allegation he injured a white supremacist that day.
Harris, 20, turned himself in Thursday morning and was released on an unsecured bond after being served a warrant charging him with unlawful wounding, said the Charlottesville Police Department.
It happened after an alleged victim, Harold Ray Crews, went to the local magistrate’s office and asked for a warrant for Harris’ arrest, police said. A detective verified the facts and issued a warrant, police said.
No further details about the warrant or the incident that precipitated it have been made public.
According to its website, Crews is chairman of the North Carolina League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization. It has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Muddying the waters?
In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday, Harris’ attorney said the warrant was an attempt to muddy the waters of who was to blame for the violent protests at the August 12 ‘Unite the Right’ rally.
“The city of Charlottesville is allowing these same white supremacists to re-victimize my client, DeAndre Harris, on the word of a single extremist,” said S. Lee Merritt. “His word alone, without any additional evidence, allowed for a warrant to go forward.”
Merritt said Crews was injured in a different incident that day that took place after Harris was already in the hospital.
“If Mr. Crews was injured that day, it was during this attack and had nothing to do with DeAndre Harris,” he said.
A woman who answered Crews’ phone Wednesday said he didn’t want to comment.
Vonzz Long, a friend of Harris’, told CNN the two of them were part of a group of people staging counterprotests that day against neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He said they got into an argument with people from hate groups who threw things and shouted racial slurs at them, and he and Harris got separated during the ensuing chaos.
When he eventually found him, Harris was surrounded by neo-Nazis in the garage and being beaten bloody, Long said.
Harris works for the Charlottesville educational system and has no criminal history, Merritt said.
“Based on the exception to the system, the word of one white supremacist, he’s being called a felon and he’s being (dragged) back through the system,” Merritt said.
Two men who were allegedly involved in the assault on Harris appeared in court Thursday via closed circuit TV. The men, who are charged with malicious wounding, saw their cases postponed until December.
City files lawsuit
Meanwhile, the city of Charlottesville and a group of local business owners filed a lawsuit Thursday that they hope will prevent another event like the white supremacist rally two months ago.
The suit targets what they call “private militia” groups by relying on state laws that prohibit “unlawful paramilitary activity” and private citizens from posing as law enforcement. The lawsuit was filed against more than 20 individuals, self-described militia groups and white nationalist organizations, and it includes several leaders of the rally in August.
“Whatever their stated intentions, these groups terrified local residents and caused attendees to mistake them for authorized military personnel,” wrote attorneys for the city in the complaint. “It was in Charlottesville that an online clique of ethno-statists became a movement with real destructive force.”
In addition, 11 unnamed plaintiffs filed a separate lawsuit Wednesday claiming they were injured, harassed, intimidated and assaulted by white supremacist groups during the August rally. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Virginia, alleges 25 individuals and groups, including several white supremacist leaders, terrorized residents of the city and caused emotional distress.
At the rally, which was held to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, scores of people were injured amid fistfights and screaming matches between white supremacist groups and counterprotesters. One man drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.