A black man brutally beaten at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 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 a man, identified Tuesday afternoon by Harris’ lawyer as Harold Ray Crews, claimed in a complaint to have been injured by the 20-year-old during the brawl.
The lawyer, Lee Merritt, issued a statement saying the unlawful wounding charge was orchestrated by the League of the South, a neo-Confederate white nationalist group, to “further victimize” Harris. Crews did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.
In an interview with the Washington Post, he called the charge “clearly retaliatory.” 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 Crews had previously tried to implicate Harris in the violence without success. He said his client would surrender to police in the coming days.
The Charlottesville Police Department said the alleged victim went to the magistrate’s office in person to explain what had happened. After describing his allegations, the magistrate issued the warrant.
“We were not expecting this. We were expecting to do our own investigation into the man’s allegations,” said Det. Sgt. Jake Via, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department.
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 the man, identified by Merritt as Crews, thrusting a Confederate flag pole at a counterprotester and Harris swinging a flashlight at him. 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’ 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’ 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.