A 20-year-old black man who was rushed and brutally assaulted by a group of white supremacists in Charlottesville two months ago is now himself facing a felony charge.
Deandre Harris was participating in a counterprotest to the white nationalists’ “Unite the Right” rally in August when a clash broke out in a parking garage near the University of Virginia campus.
Video of the incident shows Harris on the ground being violently kicked and beaten with poles by several attackers.
One person involved in the brawl, who has not been identified by authorities, has now accused Harris of injuring him during the exchange. The Charlottesville police department said in a press release on Monday it has issued an arrest warrant for Harris for unlawful wounding.
The video and several images of Harris’ beating went viral, triggering a social media crusade to identify the white supremacists responsible for the violence. Harris told media he had suffered injuries from the beating including lacerations to his head, a concussion, a broken wrist, and a chipped tooth.
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 12, 2017
Two men – 18-year-old Daniel Borden of Ohio and 33-year-old Michael Ramos of Georgia – were identified, arrested, extradited to Virginia, and charged with malicious wounding in August. At a court hearing for Ramos last month, his attorney reportedly said it may have been Harris who “struck the first blow in that fracas.”
Harris’ attorney S. Lee Merritt has described the charge against his client as “clearly retaliatory” and said Harris will soon turn himself into police.
“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,” Merritt told The Washington Post.
He added that it was “highly unusual” for a warrant to come from the magistrate rather than the police department, and suggested that the alleged victim had previously made an unsuccessful attempt at accusing Harris.
The Charlottesville Police Department, however, said in its press release that the warrant was issued by the police department, at the request of the magistrate.
“The victim went to the Magistrate’s office, presented the facts of what occurred and attempted to obtain the warrant. The magistrate requested that a detective respond and verify these facts,” the release said. “A Charlottesville Police Department detective did respond, verified the facts and a warrant for Unlawful Wounding (va Code 18.2-51) was issued.”
After news broke of the arrest warrant against Harris on Monday, white nationalists openly celebrated on Twitter. One even suggested that a crowdsourced effort to produce evidence against Harris occurred: