Man beaten by white na­tion­al­ists charged with as­sault

African Amer­i­can was at­tacked by group at Char­lottesville rally.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Jenny Jarvie Jarvie is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

AT­LANTA — A black man who was bru­tally beaten as he protested a far-right rally in Char­lottesville, Va., turned him­self in to po­lice Thurs­day af­ter he was charged with as­sault­ing a white, self-de­scribed “South­ern na­tion­al­ist.”

DeAn­dre Har­ris’ blud­geon­ing by a group of white na­tion­al­ists was cap­tured in a video that went vi­ral and spurred ac­cu­sa­tions that po­lice were not do­ing enough to bring his at­tack­ers to jus­tice.

The ar­rest of Har­ris, a 20-year-old hip-hop artist and for­mer teacher’s aide, seemed likely to in­ten­sify that crit­i­cism. Af­ter Char­lottesville po­lice served Har­ris with a war­rant at 8:30 a.m. Thurs­day charg­ing him with “un­law­ful wound­ing” — a felony charge that car­ries up to five years in prison — Har­ris was taken be­fore a mag­is­trate judge and re­leased on bond.

“It’s very up­set­ting,” said at­tor­ney S. Lee Mer­ritt, who in­sists Har­ris is in­no­cent of the charge. “It seems the ju­di­cial sys­tem in this case has bent over back­ward to fur­ther as­sist in fur­ther vic­tim­iz­ing DeAn­dre.”

Mer­ritt said the per­son who brought the com­plaint against Har­ris is Harold Crews, chair­man of the North Carolina chap­ter of the League of the South, which the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter has la­beled a neo-Con­fed­er­ate group that ad­vo­cates for an Amer­i­can so­ci­ety dom­i­nated by peo­ple of Euro­pean an­ces­try.

Har­ris was not hand­cuffed or placed in a cell, Mer­ritt said. Af­ter an ar­raign­ment Fri­day, his next court ap­pear­ance will be a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing set for mid-De­cem­ber.

While it is clear that Crews was in­jured — he sub­mit­ted ev­i­dence of a scar and se­vere in­juries from an at­tack — Mer­ritt said that based on the video ev­i­dence, “it’s not phys­i­cally pos­si­ble it could be an at­tack by DeAn­dre Har­ris.”

At one point, Har­ris swung a flash­light to stop Crews from spear­ing an­other counter-pro­tester with the pole of a Con­fed­er­ate flag, but he “failed to make sig­nif­i­cant con­tact,” Mer­ritt said. “A felony-level as­sault — that in­volves pretty se­ri­ous in­jury, a maim­ing or at­tempted-mur­der-type in­jury,” he said.

A video of a “com­pletely sep­a­rate” in­ci­dent shows Crews be­ing struck in the head by an uniden­ti­fied white male wear­ing black. But by then, Mer­ritt said, Har­ris was al­ready at the Sen­tara Martha Jef­fer­son Hospi­tal’s emer­gency room be­ing treated for in­juries.

The Aug. 12 clash between Har­ris and a group of white men took place at the Unite the Right rally, where hun­dreds of white su­prem­a­cists marched in Char­lottesville to protest the city’s plan to take down a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee. A 32-year-old wo­man, Heather Heyer, died and 19 oth­ers were in­jured when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-demon­stra­tors.

Pres­i­dent Trump stirred con­tro­versy by blam­ing some of the vi­o­lence on counter-pro­test­ers and ap­pear­ing to put them on an equal moral foot­ing with the racists.

Beaten in a park­ing garage next to the po­lice sta­tion, Har­ris was hos­pi­tal­ized for a con­cus­sion, a frac­tured wrist, bruises to his el­bows and a head lac­er­a­tion that re­quired 12 sta­ples.

“They were try­ing to kill me out there,” Har­ris told the Los An­ge­les Times the day af­ter the rally. “The po­lice didn’t budge, and I was get­ting beat to a pulp.”

Har­ris said that although some po­lice of­fi­cers ig­nored the beat­ing, one of­fi­cer even­tu­ally came to his aid.

Af­ter the at­tack, he re­signed from his job as a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion in­struc­tional as­sis­tant.

In Au­gust, two of his al­leged at­tack­ers — Alex Michael Ramos, 33, and Daniel Bor­den, 18 — were iden­ti­fied by ac­tivists through video and so­cial me­dia, then ar­rested and charged with ma­li­cious wound­ing.

Ear­lier this week, ac­tivists cel­e­brated the ar­rest of Ja­cob Good­win, 22, a man they iden­ti­fied last month as al­legedly in­volved in the at­tack on Har­ris.

Good­win was taken into cus­tody Tues­day evening by U.S. mar­shals on a felony war­rant out of Vir­ginia, ac­cord­ing to the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice in Lonoke County, Ark., where he is from. He is be­ing held at a de­ten­tion cen­ter in Lonoke County un­til he’s ex­tra­dited to Vir­ginia, said Lt. Matt Ed­wards, a sher­iff ’s of­fice spokesman. Ed­wards did not know the spe­cific charge against Good­win.

The ar­rest war­rant for Har­ris was is­sued Mon­day, less than 48 hours af­ter white na­tion­al­ists gath­ered again in Char­lottesville. Af­ter about 40 peo­ple held an un­planned, 10-minute rally in Eman­ci­pa­tion Park on Satur­day night, the city is­sued a state­ment say­ing it was un­con­scionable that white su­prem­a­cists would re­turn to the city to “in­tim­i­date and spread fear.”

De­tec­tive Sgt. Jake Via, the su­per­vis­ing de­tec­tive on the Har­ris case, em­pha­sized that his depart­ment had not is­sued the war­rant against Har­ris.

“Any per­son who’s a vic­tim of a crime can ob­tain a war­rant if they’ve given prob­a­ble cause to a mag­is­trate and that mag­is­trate finds prob­a­ble cause is there,” he said, not­ing the al­leged vic­tim was re­quired to have filed a po­lice re­port.

Defending the po­lice against crit­i­cism that it had been slow to track down the per­pe­tra­tors of the at­tacks on Har­ris, Via said that “in­ves­ti­ga­tions take time.”

“They’re not done overnight, just be­cause peo­ple send us videos, pho­tos and tips,” he said. “We still have to in­ves­ti­gate each one of those. It takes a while.”

Char­lottesville Po­lice Depart­ment

DeAN­DRE HAR­RIS is a for­mer teacher’s aide.

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