Months after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that left one dead and several others injured, charges have been dropped against DeAndre Harris, a black man who was brutally beaten by a group of white nationalists at the Unite the Right Rally on August 12. A video of Harris’ assault went viral and sparked outrage, especially when none of his attackers were immediately charged. Harris was charged with assault and battery. The charges were originally a felony but the judge reduced the charges to a misdemeanour. On Friday, March 16, a judge declared Harris not guilty in Charlottesville. DeAndre Harris will not face a $2,500 fine and a year in prison. Four of Harris’ attackers still face charges.
While many are glad that Harris was found not guilty, there is still outcry that he faced trial at all. A white supremacist named Harold Ray Crews alleged that DeAndre Harris injured him. Still, the graphic video showed the group of men, some of whom have yet to be identified, beat Harris. Harris’ lawyers claimed in court that Harris acted in self-defence. Rhonda Quagliana, a defence attorney representing Harris, was pleased with the outcome and told reporters after the verdict, “DeAndre is a 20-year-old young person and the things that happened to him on that day, and the difficulties that he’s endured after the last several months, have been nothing short of overwhelming for someone his age.”
Many organizers and activists agreed with the defence’s claim and staged rallies in support of Harris. According to NBC, over one hundred people gathered on Thursday to support DeAndre Harris. Many of them question how a black man is at fault in the middle of a gathering of white supremacists. One supporter, Grace Aheron, who organized a vigil supporting DeAndre Harris, said, “these men were victims of hate crimes all day long. They were spat upon. They saw Nazi flags.” Harris is not the only black man facing charges after the rally in Charlottesville. Donald Blakely will face a judge on April 16 for allegedly hitting White Supremacist Eric Mattson. Cory Long will face a judge in November for misdemeanour assault and disorderly conduct. Long’s image also went viral when a white supremacist attempted to hit Long with a Confederate Flag. Long used a can of spray paint and a lighter to spray fire at Richard Wilson Preston, who then recited a racist speech at Long and fired a gun. Preston also faces charges for illegally discharging his weapon.
Harris, Blakely, and Long should never have been charged. These men were targeted by a group of hateful men who targeted them for their race. Harris, Blakely, and Long simply acted in self-defence. Meanwhile, the protesters at the Unite the Right rally used violence to spark fear in so many and many of them have yet to be charged. It is a first step that Harris is now not guilty, but it is not enough. Harris, Blakely, Long, and all of the counter-protesters who risked their safety to stand up against hate in their city of Charlottesville, deserve to have their attackers punished by a legal system that insists on repeatedly failing them.