DeAndre Harris, a black man who was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after a group of white supremacists beat him in a parking garage during the Charlottesville protests last August, was exonerated in court on Friday.
Charlottesville Central District Judge Robert H. Downer Jr. said it was clear that Harris didn’t intend to cause harm and was acting in defense of his friend when he swung a flashlight at Harold Crews, a North Carolina lawyer and state chairman of the League of the South, a white supremacist group.
Video of the clash between Harris and the group of white supremacists went viral and became a defining moment from the violent Unite the Right rally in the Virginia college town last August. In the video, Harris, a former special education teaching assistant, is seen lying bloodied on the floor of the parking garage while six men in khakis and white shirts beat him with sticks.
Harris, who was 20 at the time, suffered a concussion, a head laceration that required 10 staples, a broken wrist, a spinal injury, and a chipped tooth. The injuries continued online, as far-right trolls, angry about the viral attention that Harris received and the arrests of several of his assailants, flooded social media with “evidence” that sought to discredit Harris’s version of events and portray him as the aggressor.
The League of the South undertook a campaign for Harris' arrest, with members claiming they had “completely reconstructed DeAndre Harris’ actions” and had “indisputable evidence against him.” They filed a report with the Charlottesville Police Department, which declined the case, and took their “evidence” to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, which also declined.
But they found a sympathetic ear in the magistrate’s office, which issued a warrant for Harris’ arrest. Harris was arraigned on felony assault charges, which were later downgraded to a misdemeanor. Had he been convicted, he faced up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.