UPDATE: Charlottesville General District Court Judge Robert Downer Jr found DeAndre Harris not guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery.
DeAndre Harris was savagely attacked by white supremacists. He suffered a broken wrist a spinal injury, and a head laceration that required stitches, yet today he’s the one on trial. Harris is charged with misdemeanor assault for defending himself during infamous and deadly rally neo-Nazis held in Charlottesville, VA last year.
Harris faces trial today for his role in counter protesting the “Unite the Right” rally when a group of white supremacists rushed him, leaving him bloody and bruised. Harris claims that the counter protest was peaceful. His two friends,Corey Long and Donald Blakney were charged with crimes too.
There’s even proof captured on camera by photographer Zach D. Roberts that shows Harris knelt down on the ground, but Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania refuses to drop the misdemeanor charges against Harris and his crew, even as advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter mount pressure to drop the case.
Platania did drop felony charges against Harris back in December, but local residents say that’s not enough.
— Zach D Roberts (@zdroberts) August 12, 2017
“These charges are part of a broader strategy employed by white supremacists to weaponize the courts against Black people by first inciting violence, and then pressing charges,” Lisa Woolfork, an organizer with BLM Charlottesville, said in a press release.
“The verdict in DeAndre’s case, as well as the upcoming cases against Corey Long and Donald Blakney, will signal to white supremacists whether Charlottesville is a place where these tactics work,” she continued. “These court decisions will thus be critically important for the highly likely Unite the Right ‘reunion’ in August 2018, telling white supremacists, with either support or censure from the courts, if they are free to unleash havoc in our community with a certain degree of immunity from the harm they cause.”
In DeAndre Harris’ Own Words
Harris spoke out and said that the counter protest was peaceful.
“Me and about five of my friends were out protesting. We thought (the racists) left, but at one point they came back,” Harris said in an interview with The Root.
He insisted that his group of friends did nothing to escalate the situation into physical violence. “Everyone was exchanging words with the group, but then the KKK and white supremacists just rushed us,” he said, adding that “no police were there to help me at all,” despite the fact that the event took place right outside the Charlottesville Police Department.
He added that he was surprised the event was not shut down sooner.
“I think for them to be allowed to come here and protest is really crazy. How do you expect the KKK to come to your city to protest, and them not be violent?” he asked. “I understand everyone is entitled to their freedom of speech, but the government and the mayor made a bad business move. It’s only caused havoc in your own city. It’s crazier that people have the hatred in their heart to want to kill black people.”
A Rally of Support
After the attack, DeAndre Harris had eight stitches in his head, a broken wrist, lacerations and a chipped tooth. A GoFundMe page has since been created to help pay for medical costs. On the page, he described how he was “knocked unconscious repeatedly” and that he “was knocked back down” each time he tried to get up again.
“If it was not for my friends that I came with I would have been beaten to a pulp… Once I was dragged off to some near by steps I was taken to the designated area for injured protesters & counter-protesters,” he wrote.
He also wrote that he was not going to be silent: “We will not let this fade & disappear. People are carrying real hate in their hearts for the Black Community and I refuse to just let it happen. God Bless & thank you all again!”
A vigil is being planned to support Harris.
“We hope that the vigil will show the Charlottesville community’s widespread support for DeAndre Harris, and our outrage at his unjust treatment in the courts. DeAndre showed up to defend this community on August 12th; now it’s our turn to show up and defend him,” Grace Aheron, an organizer with SURJ Charlottesville, said, according to the statement.