A black man brutally beaten at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville is now facing a felony charge related to the August attack.
A local magistrate on Monday issued an arrest warrant for DeAndre Harris on an unlawful wounding charge after an accuser, whom police did not identify, claimed to have been injured by the 20-year-old during the brawl, authorities told local media.
S. Lee Merritt, a civil attorney for Harris, told The Washington Post the charge was “clearly retaliatory” and described the accuser as a member of a white supremacist group. He maintained that Harris did not instigate the fight.
“We find it highly offensive and upsetting, but what’s more jarring is that he’s been charged with the same crime as the men who attacked him,” he said.
Merritt added that it was “highly unusual” for the warrant to come from a magistrate rather than police, and suggested that the accuser had previously tried to implicate Harris in the violence without success. He said his client would turn himself into police in the coming days.
In a statement provided to WVIR, the Charlottesville Police Department said the alleged victim went to the magistrate’s office in person to explain what happened. After discussing the accuser’s story with a detective, the magistrate issued the warrant.
Harris was marching in opposition to the rally on Aug. 12 when a scuffle broke out between a group of white supremacists and several counterprotesters at a downtown parking garage.
Videos from the scene showed a white supremacist thrusting a Confederate flag pole at a counterprotester and Harris swinging a flashlight at the man. Six white supremacists then descended on Harris, kicking him and striking him with wooden sticks as he lay curled up on the pavement, as The Post has reported.
Images of the brawl and Harris’s bloodied face went viral, prompting a frenzied campaign on social media to identify his attackers.
Two men were later arrested in the attack on Harris, who said he suffered a concussion, a head laceration that required 10 staples and other injuries. Both were charged with malicious wounding, a felony.
One of them, 33-year-old Alex Michael Ramos of Georgia, was identified after he posted about the incident on Facebook. He said in a television interview that the attack was “defensive” and denied being a white supremacist, as The Post has reported.
“I was there because, pretty much, I’m a conservative,” he said. “There were some non-racist members who were going to a free speech rally.”
At a court hearing in September, Ramos’s attorney said “it may have been Mr. Harris who struck the first blow in that fracas,” according to the Daily Progress.
The “Unite the Right” rally was organized by conservative blogger Jason Kessler after Charlottesville officials voted to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
The event drew an assortment of white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right, as well as throngs of counterprotesters. During the demonstrations, a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring many others.
James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer, was charged with second-degree murder in the hit-and-run. Scores of other people were injured in street skirmishes throughout the day.