US police arrest 2 men over violence in Charlottesville 2 weeks ago

Police at the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug 12 did not initially wear riot gear, but as tensions rose that morning, officers donned the protective equipment. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA (NYTIMES) - The police arrested two men, including a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and were seeking a third in connection with violent episodes that took place at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month.

This includes the beating of an African-American man that was caught on video and widely shared on social media.

The arrests came two weeks after the Aug 12 rally, which brought hundreds of white supremacists to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

The day was marked by violence between demonstrators and counterprotesters, and a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer, was struck and killed by a car in what authorities have called a terrorist attack.

The police were widely criticised for not doing more to stop the violence.

The beating victim, DeAndre Harris, 20, was cornered in a parking garage just yards from police headquarters and was attacked by six men who had gathered for the rally. Harris has a broken wrist and sustained a head injury that required 10 staples, his lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, said.

Daniel P. Borden, 18, was charged with malicious wounding in connection with the aggravated assault on Harris, police said. He was arrested Friday (Aug 25) and was being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center in Cincinnati, the Charlottesville police said in a statement.

The authorities also released a wanted poster for Alex Michael Ramos, 33, of Marietta, Georgia. He was charged with malicious wounding, a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.

"For DeAndre and his family, news of the arrest of one of the six men that assaulted him comes five suspects short and 14 days too late," Merritt said Saturday.

"Given that these men were identified by a journalist almost immediately, it appears that law enforcement sat on its hands for a couple of weeks before deciding they probably should arrest someone."

Merritt said the suspects had been identified as a result of efforts by Shaun King, an activist and a columnist at the Daily News in New York, who issued a US$10,000 (S$13,558) reward for information that led to arrests.

According to Merritt, Ramos' friends identified him after he posted about the attack on Facebook, saying that as a Puerto Rican man he disavowed white supremacy but had participated in the rally because he despises leftists. In the video, Ramos appeared to have something wrapped in his hands that he used to strike Harris, Merritt said.

The attack started because white supremacists had tried to "spear" one of Harris' friends with a flagpole, and Harris tried to knock the pole away, the lawyer said. Suddenly Harris, an aspiring rapper, was rushed by more than a dozen men and fell backward.

The video showed Harris on the ground being pummeled.

The police also made an arrest Saturday in connection with an earlier episode at the rally, in which a man was captured on video firing at the ground in the direction of an African-American counterprotester. The counterprotester, Corey Long, was the friend Harris would go on to defend in the parking garage a few hours later, Merritt said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia submitted the video to the FBI and the local police.

"At first it was peaceful protest," Long told The Root, a black news and culture website. "Until someone pointed a gun at my head. Then the same person pointed it at my foot and shot the ground."

Photos showed that Long had been using an improvised torch to spar with a man carrying a flagpole when the shot was fired.

Richard W. Preston, 52, was charged with discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, a crime punishable by two to 10 years in prison. He was arrested Saturday and is in the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson, Maryland, the police said.

Preston has been described in news reports as an imperial wizard in the Ku Klux Klan.

"We didn't go as the Klan," Preston told an Indiana television station shortly after the rally. "We didn't go there to create havoc and fight. We went there to protect a monument."

In a statement released Saturday, the police said investigators had identified 35 victims of the car attack that killed Heyer. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, who the authorities say drove the car, has been charged with killing Heyer and wounding numerous other people in a crowd.

"At this time, our detectives have identified 35 victims and have reached out to each of them. We are still awaiting a response from several victims," the police said.

"This is an ongoing investigation, with multiple victims, witnesses and items of evidence."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.