Charlottesville Demands Joe Platania Drop The Charges against DeAndre, Corey, and Donald

Local groups deliver letter to Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania

Black Lives Matter, Congregate Cville, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and other local groups and community members held a rally and press conference in front of City Hall on Monday to demand that Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania Drop The Charges against DeAndre Harris, Corey Long and Donald Blakney. While the local Circuit Court forces Charlottesville to maintain monuments to white supremacist terror in our city, we cannot forget that in the nearby General District Court the city continues to prosecute these three Black men for simply showing up in the face of the racial terrorism of August 12.

After the rally, community members delivered a letter to Joe Platania explaining the demand to drop the charges.

Watch the video here, and read the statements from each of the three speakers below.

Lisa Woolfork, Black Lives Matter-Charlottesville

It is no accident that we are gathered here today. We come together to shine a light upon the complex structures of white supremacy that have for too long been readily accepted and normalized.
 
It is no accident that Charlottesville has confederate monuments. It is no accident that the Virginia legislature moves in ways to maintain them. The same historical circumstances that find a culture founded on slavery to be a neutral matter of heritage are the same forces that we are here to resist today.
 
On August 11 and 12, racists struck at the heart of our city. They came to defend a statue that glorifies a white supremacist republic. They came because the vision of a white supremacist republic is alive and well for them. They intended to sow fear, to wreak violence, and create havoc in our streets. Claiming the neutral mantle of free speech, they practiced a racial terror beyond words.
 
Recently, a local judge continued that legacy — in the guise of a neutral application of law — by ruling that Cville must keep those Jim Crow statues in public view. Forcing the public to look at the monuments is an example of how the law purports to be neutral while actually acting in ways that disproportionally harms black people.
 
Deandre Harris, Corey Long, and Donald Blakeney are now caught up in that legacy.
 
 It is outrageous that three black men face charges for resisting a white supremacist invasion. This paradox is only resolved by the belief that white supremacy is not meant to be resisted. This disgraceful circumstance only makes sense if one accepts the claim that white supremacy is neutral. Two of these men have become national icons of the white supremacist violence that created Hashtag Charlottesville in the first place. Their images have been featured in media around the world as symbols of the brutality of white supremacy. These men prove that violence of racial terror is neither purely historical or abstract.
 
 The law must act in ways that deliberately aim to balance the scales of justice that have too long been tilted against black people. Mass incarceration proves that the fiction of legal neutrality conceals a fundamentally anti-black agenda. We call out judges and attorneys who hide behind the paper shield of the law to perpetuate harm against black individuals and communities. We call on Joe Platania to take the first step to heal this community of its wounds. Drop the Charges.

Grace Aheron, Showing Up for Racial Justice-Charlottesville

We are gathered here today because white supremacists are actively weaponizing the court system to terrorize Black people in our town. As mentioned previously, we know that the injustice system is disproportionately skewed against Black people, and we are here today because white supremacists have learned that they can take advantage of that reality. Across the country, we have witnessed a rise in this tactic — in which Nazis build support for their own causes and criminalize People of Color by intentionally creating situations in which they become the victims of alleged attacks.

In Charlottesville, antiracist activists spent the months leading up to August 12 revealing the violent intentions of organizers of the Unite the Right Rally, begging City Council to revoke the permit and begging the public to take the threats more seriously. A chat log of a local white supremacist made public through Solidarity Cville reveals the Nazi’s intentions around Wes Bellamy, at the time the only Black member of City Council:

“The point of all this is to lure him to the park and get him to do something stupid so we can get him removed.”

The point is clear — incite violence so that the Black folks get blamed. All of the charges brought by Jason Kessler against local activist Veronica Fitzhugh also fit this bill. Another example: shortly after August 12, a man in Colorado stabbed himself and blamed it on an imaginary Black man, claiming that he was attacked for looking like a neo-Nazi. And again: after the “white lives matter” rally in Shellbyville, TN, an interracial couple was attacked at a restaurant. Nationally known white supremacist Matthew Heinbach repeatedly claimed that the Black man from the couple attacked them first, saying that the Nazis were trying to deescalate the situation. No charges were pressed against the couple, but without the blatantly clear video evidence, that may not have been the case. And aside from within the court system itself, false narratives of Nazis falling victim to alleged “Black violence” run terrifyingly rampant on the internet, used as a tactic of basebuilding and recruitment. See the recent examples of white supremacists taking searchable images of bloodied faces from the internet, turning them into memes, and claiming to have been attacked while going to see the movie Black Panther.

They are on the offensive, using skewed courts and manipulated stories to grow their ranks.

For those not in Charlottesville right now: I cannot stress enough that the continued harassment of Black people and antiracist activists since August 12 is not a coincidence. It is a tactic, a tactic with the intention of terrorizing our community AND building support for a white supremacist base.

Joe Platania, we need you to drop the charges not only because these men are community protectors and clear victims of white supremacist violence, but because we need this tactic to stop working. We need to disrupt their success in using the justice system as a weapon.

No more. Do it like Durham. Drop the charges.

Brittany (Smash) Caine-Conley, Congregate Cville

We call on Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania to drop all charges against Deandre Harris, Corey Long and Donald Blakney. As you have heard, the charges against these three black men continue to perpetuate the evils of violent white supremacy.

In light of the fact that the city government, the police and other systems of power in Charlottesville did not protect the citizens here, as was clearly laid out in the Heaphy report, it is morally inconceivable to prosecute and persecute black men who attempted to protect themselves and their neighbors in the face of such violence.

If this last year has taught us anything, it’s that we all must act boldly to stomp out white supremacy where ever, whenever and however it rears its ugly, evil head.

Your time to act boldly and act justly is now Mr. Platania. We call on you to use the power given to you by this community, to use it for good, to use your power to stop these white supremacist tactics of terror.

We pray and hope for healing in this community. Yet we will have no healing until justice flows like water. And we will have no justice until we renounce white supremacy with our words, our actions, our lives.

Mr. Platania, we call on you to renounce white supremacy. Do it like Durham. Drop the Charges!

Ready to take next steps? See this flier that was distributed at the rally. #DropTheCharges #DropEmCville
Charlottesville community members stand outside Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania’s office at City Hall to demand he drop the charges against DeAndre Harris, Corey Long and Donald Blakney stemming from the Unite the Right white supremacist attacks on August 12, 2017.
No Unity Without Justice: Drop the Charges.