The videos show how the beating unfolded, revealing its brutality and shocking speed from multiple perspectives.
On Aug. 12, white supremacists at the “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville converged on counterprotesters outside the Market Street parking garage — a facility right next to the Charlottesville Police Department.
First, a white supremacist attempted to spear a counterprotester with the pole of a Confederate flag. Then, DeAndre Harris, a former special-education instructional assistant, swung a flashlight at the man, possibly striking him.
Then, the skirmish erupted into a full-throttle attack on Harris. Six white supremacists rushed the 20-year-old African American who had fled into the parking garage, kicking him to the ground and pummeling him with what appeared to be wooden sticks and a large board. Harris sustained a spinal injury and a deep head laceration that required 10 staples, according to his Philadelphia-based attorney, S. Lee Merritt.
Over the next few days, as people uploaded videos of the fight, a Black Lives Matter activist took it upon himself to do what law enforcement agencies apparently weren’t doing: trying to identify the six attackers so they could be arrested. Shaun King, who at the time was a New York Daily News columnist and is now a writer in residence at a project at Harvard Law School, scoured the Web to match old photos of the attackers with images from the Charlottesville fight. He bore down deep into Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, looking for associates of the men who could confirm first and last names.
As of Thursday, King was credited with identifying two of the alleged assailants: Daniel P. Borden, 18, of Ohio and Alex Michael Ramos, 33, of Georgia. Both were arrested in their home states and charged with malicious wounding. The other four men haven’t been officially named, but King said he hasn’t stopped trying.
“I spoke to the Charlottesville Police Department, two FBI agents, and the state police. It was surreal. The only thing they knew about the attackers was stuff they got from my [social media] timelines!” King said in an interview. “Something had me thinking that the FBI was so sophisticated, that they were running these photos through databases. But they openly said that the only guys they knew were the two guys I had identified. My thought was, ‘This can’t be real.’ ”
Dennette Rybiski, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s office in Richmond, declined to be interviewed. After the rally, four days passed before the bureau posted on Twitter links to a tip line and a website where people could share information about the violence in Charlottesville.
The Washington Post made multiple requests to speak with members of the Charlottesville Police Department. Neither Chief Al S. Thomas Jr. nor a department spokesman returned messages. The city manager, Maurice Jones, did not respond to interview requests left with his spokeswoman.
The attack on Harris was just one of the stains left by the “Unite the Right” rally. A Nazi sympathizer, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly plowed through a crowd in his car, killing counterprotester Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others. Fields Jr., 20, who had stood with white supremacists hours before the crash, was charged with second-degree murder. At least a dozen others got into other brawls and were also treated for injuries.
In the aftermath of the violence, Charlottesville has been riven by recrimination and second-guessing: Why didn’t the police intervene to halt the multiple altercations? Why were police standing off to the sides and behind the two opposing groups — and not in between them?
Merritt, Harris’s attorney, said local police “share in some liability” for his client’s injuries. He accused the police of passivity in their efforts to identify and arrest Harris’s assailants because “if you have six arrests after the fact — from an incident that was feet away from law enforcement — it makes them appear more culpable,” he said.
Harris declined to comment through his attorney. He set up a GoFundMe Web page, with the goal of raising $50,000. He’s gotten more than $166,000.
“If it was not for my friends that I came with I would have been beaten to a pulp,” Harris wrote on the page.
Merritt said the FBI questioned them about why Harris had kept the GoFundMe page active even though he’d reached his goal. It is no longer accepting donations.
“They were responding to Internet claims that DeAndre was manipulating the public for financial gain. It’s a red herring,” Merritt said. “It’s great the community wanted to support him, but it had nothing to do with the incident, and doesn’t explain why he was attacked and doesn’t help track down the people who attacked him.”
The night of the rally, King launched a public investigation, posting a photo of the white supremacists beating Harris in the parking garage.
“America. 2017. Arrest these men. All of them. Right now. What are their names?” he wrote on Facebook. “Economics my ass. This is violent white supremacy plain and simple.”
The next day, he posted photos of one of the attackers — one who has still not been named.
“SHARE THIS. All hands on deck. WHO IS THIS MAN with the red beard?” King wrote on Facebook, attaching photos of the man standing idly at the rally and then another of him at the attack.
An hour later, he posted photos of a young man with moles on his neck, two from the rally and one from the garage clash.
“OK Everybody! ALL HANDS ON DECK. SHARE!!! Here is white supremacist #2 that we MUST identify. WHO IS HE?” King wrote at 4:37 p.m. on Aug. 13.
Less than three hours later, at 7:04 p.m., King had one of the alleged assailants:
“Daniel (Dan) Borden — we found you. Your classmates turned you in,” King wrote, posting photos from the white supremacist’s now-shuttered Facebook account. “They said this doesn’t surprise them. And your neck moles gave it away.”
About two weeks later, Borden was arrested in Ohio, where he grew up. The Post left a message for his attorney, Greg Berberich, but it was not returned. According to the Associated Press, the attorney said that Borden had been hit in the head and tear-gassed several times and that he asked police for protection. He also said Borden’s family believes he will be proved innocent. The Post could not reach his parents for comment.
Three days after the rally, King found another alleged attacker.
“Dear Michael A. Ramos, We caught you. Your Facebook friends reported you to me,” King wrote, posting photos of Ramos in the assault next to other images of him.
“We downloaded all of the content off of your Facebook page before you deleted it — including your video and comments bragging about the assault.”
Ramos turned himself in to officials in Georgia and is expected to be transferred to Virginia authorities in the next week.
Now King is trying to get full names for the remaining alleged assailants, especially the man with the red beard who was wearing dark pants and a hat during the attack.
“That guy looks so distinct,” King said, frustrated. “But he’s a ghost. I think he’s deleted any trace of himself online.”