DeAndre Harris, a counter-protester who was assaulted at the 2017 Unite the Right rally, has filed a lawsuit against his attackers and the organizers of the white supremacist event, alleging a conspiracy to violate his civil rights.
Filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Harris’ lawsuit names nearly three dozen defendants, including lead-UTR organizers Jason Kessler, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, Harris’ six attackers and various white supremacist individuals and organizations. According to the complaint, Harris has moved from Suffolk to Charlottesville since the rally.
The suit alleges that the defendants — specifically Kessler and Spencer — created a conspiracy to deny black and Jewish people equal protection under the law, leading to the physical assault on Harris.
“A conspiracy to violate Harris’s rights, and the rights of other black and Jewish people and counter-protesters, took place in Charlottesville. In furtherance of this conspiracy, Defendants engaged in campaigns of violence, threats and intimidation at the Park and its outskirts,” the complaint reads. “This conspiracy involved the attack on Harris because he was black and was designed to intimidate and harass Harris and those similarly situated.”
The suit goes into further detail on the assault of Harris, a video of which has been viewed millions of times, as well as the events that led to the attack.
According to the complaint, as Harris and other counter-protesters were leaving the demonstration, he witnessed a friend being attacked by a white supremacist wielding a flagpole.
“Harris feared that his friend was being speared with the flagpole. In response, Harris threw a flashlight at the white supremacist attacker in an effort to push him off of his friend,” the complaint reads. “After the attack on his friend, Harris fled into a crowded parking garage in fear for his safety. Harris was quickly chased by several white supremacists intending to brutally assault him as white supremacists and counter-protesters scattered everywhere.”
Harris was “brutally” attacked by six men inside the Market Street garage, according to the complaint. Video of the incident sparked outrage across the internet, which helped lead to the identification and arrest of four of the men.
Three of them — Jacob Goodwin, Alex Ramos and Daniel Borden — were charged with malicious wounding and received multi-year prison sentences. A fourth man, Tyler Davis, entered an Alford plea for the malicious wounding charge earlier this year and will be sentenced in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Aug. 27.
Goodwin and Ramos have since appealed their convictions.
In addition to the four named attackers, the suit names two additional men captured on video of the attack. These men, named John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 in the suit, have yet to be identified.
“Doe 1 can be seen wearing sunglasses in the parking garage as he actively participates in the brutal assault. Doe 1 was carrying a flagpole and shield and struck Harris with the flagpole at least two times during the assault,” the suit reads.
“Doe 2 was also carrying a flagpole but can be distinguished by the red beard on his person when the assault on Harris took place. As Harris attempted to scramble and flee for his life during the assault, Doe 2 struck Harris with the flagpole at least once,” the complaint reads.
Harris’ attackers yelled racist slurs at him, pummeled him with their fists and weapons, according to the complaint, and led to “... a spinal injury, broken wrist, chipped tooth, concussion, head wound requiring 10 stitches and other internal injuries.”
Following the rally, Harris was charged with unlawful wounding, of which he was acquitted in March 2018.
In addition to the conspiracy to commit violence against people of color and Jews, the complaint argues that, as a result of the attack, Harris was subjected to the intentional infliction of emotional distress and that the defendants aided and abetted assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Harris seeks undisclosed actual, punitive and exemplary damages from his attackers and the organizers, as well as medical expenses and attorney’s fees.
A trial by jury is requested.