US & Canada

Black man beaten at Charlottesville rally 'cleared of assault'

DeAndre Shakur Harris Image copyright Charlottesville Police Department
Image caption Mr Harris suffered a head wound, knee injury and fractured wrist in the attack, his lawyer says

A black man who was beaten in Virginia at a far-right rally has been cleared of assault charges in connection with the incident, US media report.

A judge found DeAndre Harris, 20, was acting in self-defence when fights broke out at the protest last August in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Violent clashes erupted at the white nationalist rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.

A video of Mr Harris being attacked at the rally was widely shared online.

Footage of the scuffle showed at least five white men beating and kicking Mr Harris to the ground in an indoor car park next to the police station during the "Unite the Right" rally on 12 August.

Four of Mr Harris's attackers were charged but one individual, Harold Crews, accused him of attacking him before the beating took place.

The 48-year-old attorney and chairman of the North Carolina League of the South filed a police report two months after the violent protest that left one counter-protester dead. He asked a magistrate to issue a warrant for Mr Harris' arrest.

Mr Harris was initially charged with a felony but it was downgraded to misdemeanour assault.

Footage shared online showed Mr Crews tussling with a black protester over a flagpole he was holding. Mr Harris is seen swinging a flashlight at Mr Crews, who appeared to have been struck on the head or shoulder.

Mr Harris argues he swung the flashlight to try and knock the pole out of Mr Crews' hands because he feared he was attacking his friend. Moments later, Mr Harris was severely beaten.

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Media captionWhat Trump said versus what the BBC's Joel Gunter saw

Mr Harris's lawyer, S Lee Merritt, said his client, a former special-education teaching assistant, suffered a concussion, a knee injury and a fractured wrist.

The assault also left him with a head laceration that required stitches.

If convicted Mr Harris would have faced up to five years in prison and a $2,500 (‎£1,880) fine.

Protesters convened outside the courthouse in Charlottesville on Friday in support of Mr Harris.

An independent review commissioned by the city found in December the police department and city officials were ill-prepared for the white nationalist rally.

During the clashes, 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed when a white nationalist driver ploughed a car into a crowd.

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