Twenty-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist Deandre Harris moved to Charlottesville, Va., from Suffolk, Va., two years ago for a job opportunity as an instructional assistant in the special education program at a local high school. But nothing could prepare him for what he experienced Saturday afternoon, when he took part in a counterprotest against the Unite the Right white supremacy marches that took place in the city.
By now you’ve probably seen a photo of Harris that has gone viral. It was captured by Zach D. Roberts and shows Harris being beaten with poles by a group of white supremacists.
The shocking photo immediately went far and wide, and although Harris received multiple injuries, he says that he’s thankful to be alive to tell his story.
“Me and about five of my friends were out protesting. We thought [the racists] left, but at one point they came back. Everyone was exchanging words with the group, but then the KKK and white supremacists just rushed us,” Harris told The Root in an interview.
“They were beating me with poles. I have eight staples in my head, a broken wrist and a chipped tooth,” Harris said.
Harris said if it wasn’t for his friends who noticed him under the pile of white supremacists and helped him, he probably wouldn’t be alive to tell his story. Harris is in the process of pressing charges, and the photographer who took the photo is helping his mother identify the racists who took part in the attack.
After the photo made its rounds on social media, many people noticed that the parking garage where the assault took place was right near the Charlottesville Police Department. And of course, we know how this story goes.
“The beating happened right beside the Police Department, and no police were there to help me at all. My mother is now thinking about suing the city of Charlottesville,” Harris said.
Although freedom of speech protects even the most vile of humans, Harris is still confused as to why the town let the rally happen.
“I think for them to be allowed to come here and protest is really crazy. How do you expect the KKK to come to your city to protest, and them not be violent? I understand everyone is entitled to their freedom of speech, but the government and the mayor made a bad business move. It’s only caused havoc in your own city. It’s crazier that people have the hatred in their heart to want to kill black people,” Harris stated.
Harris’ friends and family created a GoFundMe to help with his medical expenses, but there is no amount of money that could take away the trauma the 20-year-old experienced Saturday afternoon.
James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The violence that erupted in Charlottesville over the last 48 hours has been the face of America since the beginning of time.
It’s gone from being cloaked in white masks to crisp Walmart and Target polos, but until those so-called allies stand up to their racist counterparts, nothing will change. People of color are tired. We’ve faced this head-on; it’s now your time to face it and change it.