Today, community members and UVa students shut down the Planning Commission meeting to stand in solidarity with DeAndre Harris and declare that business cannot go on as usual in the face of injustice. They held banners that read “Justice 4 DeAndre” and “Cville Is Not For Sale.”
On August 12th, DeAndre Harris was among the community members who showed up to confront white supremacy and fascism in Charlottesville. The world watched as DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten by a group of white supremacists in the parking garage adjacent to the Charlottesville Police Station. Harris was chased and beaten with metal poles. Police stood down and watched the incident occur, as they did the entire day. And on October 9, DeAndre Harris was charged with unlawful wounding.
As noted by Mr. Harris’ attorney Lee Merritt, this is clearly a retaliatory response by white supremacists. The complainant is Harold Ray Crews, a leader of the neo-Confederate group League of the South. These charges against Mr. Harris are FALSE. It is unthinkable that a young black community member would be charged with a felony while all but two of his white assailants are still at large. And even then, it took a national campaign for the Charlottesville Police Department to finally bring charges against those two of his attackers.
Subverting the standard criminal complaint system is not new in Charlottesville. Since April, many local activists have been targeted for their anti-racist work. When the police don’t press charges, citizens go to the magistrate and swear out a statement and the magistrate can issue a warrant. This has happened over and over again: white supremacists going to the magistrate to press bogus charges against anti-racist activists.
This is one egregious example of how white supremacy manifests itself in this city. Affordable housing for extremely low-income people has also rapidly disappeared in this city, recently recognized as having the largest income gap in the state. Developers are attempting to put in a 9 story building on the corner of Water and 2nd St, where each floor would be worth $1-1.5 million, and house only a single tenant. It is unthinkable that the City Council would entertain these greedy developers while ignoring the needs of our most marginalized community members. It was at this point in the Commission meeting that Charlottesville activists shut down the hearing about this special use permit. City police, including Chief Thomas, were called in: no arrests were made, and the meeting did not reconvene.
“Gentrification and displacement is anti-black,” says Lyndsey Beutin, one of the community members involved in tonight’s shut-down. “State repression and coddling of white supremacists is anti-black. Charlottesville city officials: DROP THE CHARGES against DeAndre Harris and other anti-racist activists, and put a halt to gentrification and prioritize affordable housing.”