US police have charged an African American man who was brutally beaten by at least six white nationalists following a far-right rally in Charlottesville with unlawful wounding.
DeAndre Harris, 20, who sustained a spinal injury and a head wound that required 10 stitches, turned himself in to Charlottesville Police on Thursday and was served a warrant charging him with unlawful wounding.
Harold Crews, a white man who identifies himself as a “Southern Nationalist” on Twitter, claimed that Harris injured him at a car park following the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12.
Unlawful wounding is a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Police said Harris was taken before a magistrate and released on an unsecured bond.
The confrontation took place after a friend of Harris attempted to take a Confederate flag, widely considered a symbol of white supremacy, away from one of the marchers.
A video of the assault was shared and viewed widely in the days following the rally, which saw hundreds of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee.
The video of the assault shows Harris being kicked and punched by a group of white supremacists.
Separately at the rally, a man with links to a white nationalist group allegedly rammed his car into a group of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
‘Police have a lot to explain’
Jeff Fogel, who is currently in the running to become Charlottesville’s Commonwealth Attorney, told Al Jazeera that Charlottesville police had “a lot to explain,” noting that authorities had been slow to apprehend far-right protesters accused of similar misconduct.
According to a statement by the Charlottesville police, the alleged “victim went to the magistrate’s office, presented the facts of what occurred and attempted to obtain the warrant”.
The statement added: “The magistrate requested that a detective respond and verify these facts. A Charlottesville Police Department detective did respond, verified the facts, and a warrant for unlawful wounding … was issued.”
Regarding the statement’s claim that police “verified” the facts, Fogel said he takes “that to mean that the police claim [Harris] committed the offence. Now it’s up to the police department to show us the proof”.
A national campaign to identify and charge the six men who attacked Harris was spearheaded by Shaun King, a writer and civil rights activist.
King collected photo and video evidence of the assault and shared images of the assailants, leading to the identification of at least two, who were also charged with unlawful wounding.
King was outraged by the warrant, saying Harris “is a victim and only a victim in this”.
“I’ve reviewed all of the photo and video evidence at great length. It’s an abomination that he was charged,” he told Al Jazeera.
For many in Charlottesville, the warrant is a continuation of discrimination and inequality in their community.
Timothy Porter, an African American resident of Charlottesville, told Al Jazeera the system is “crooked” and allows police to “treat minorities (especially black men) however they want”.
Porter, who has been arrested by Charlottesville police in the past, claims he has little hope in the justice system, citing institutional protection for police who harass minorities: “Their bosses allow it, and the courts allow it”.