By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
A surge in donations is pouring in by the minute for Deandre Harris, the 20-year-old Black man who was brutally beaten during a violent clash with white supremacists last Saturday.
As of the Crusader press time, Harris has received over $141,000 in donations raised in just three days on GoFundMe.com. Supporters set a goal of $50,000 to pay for his medical bills, but after hearing Harris’ story and seeing the gruesome photos of his injuries, the donations are now nearly three times higher than expectations.
Many of the contributions are from anonymous donors across the country. but Carmen Maxcy, a $100 donor from Brooklyn, NY, said, “Please get better soon, & thank you for your bravery.”
Thomas Stratton, who donated $50, said, “You stood for all of us. Let Americans be there for you. Thank you!”
In Charlottesville, Harris barely escaped death under a swarm of white supremacists, who beat him with objects in a gruesome display of aggression reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.
Meanwhile, Black leaders in Chicago and across the country are joining elected officials everywhere as the sentiment against the violence and racism grows across the country. There have been marches, demonstrations and a firestorm of criticism against President Donald Trump who has been accused of taking a soft stand on a problem by blaming both the protesters and the white supremacists. Many remain disturbed that Trump continues to draw praise from white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members.
The groups held a “Unite the Right” nationalist rally in Charlottesville where they chanted Nazi phrases and carried swastikas and confederate flags. Opposed to the removal of local confederate monuments—primarily the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park—they were met by a crowd of counter protesters who eventually clashed with them in a bloody confrontation that led Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency that lasted at least six days.
Three people died and 19 were injured when a dark gray Dodge Challenger driven by Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio, plowed through a crowd of protesters.
The confrontation continued as police retreated from the area, drawing criticism from some residents. In his account on his GoFundMe page, Harris said, “I was chased and beat with metal poles. I was knocked unconscious repeatedly. Every time I went to stand up, I was knocked back down. If it was not for my friends that I came with, I would have been beaten to a pulp. No law enforcement stepped in to help me. Once I was dragged off to some nearby steps, I was taken to the designated area for injured protesters and counter-protesters. My injuries were too extensive to be treated at the scene, so I was taken to the ER at Martha Jefferson Hospital. I was diagnosed with a concussion, an ulnar fracture and had to receive eight staples in my head. I also have a laceration across my right eyebrow, abrasions on my knees & elbows and a chipped tooth. I’m so blessed to be alive to tell my story and to show the world that racism is very much still alive. The funds will be used to pay for my medical bills.”
In Chicago, about 600 people demonstrated in front of Trump Tower, 401 N. Wabash, where they lashed out at the president and the violence. It was one of several rallies held in cities throughout the country.
On radio station WVON, callers lit up airwaves during the “Perri Small Show” on Aug. 15, expressing concern about the violence. Small accused Trump of being a Neo-Nazi sympathizer. The next day, Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center, sent a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District asking the city to rename Washington and Jackson Parks, which are named after former presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson—both of whom were slave owners.
“When my children and grandchildren walk through these parks and say, ‘Grandfather, wasn’t he a slave owner?’ How do I explain that and how do I reconcile that with their views of what heroes are?” Dukes told WGN.Chicago leaders issued statements calling for peace and urged citizens to stand up to bigotry and violence.
“To be silent is to encourage the militaristic, hateful, un-American behavior we are witnessing in the streets of Charlottesville as hundreds of neo-Nazis, klansmen and their supporters gather in that historic college town,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson. “They must not be given a comfort zone. The president must condemn this invasion of hate in the strongest terms.”
Cong. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), stated, “The racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, the fomenting of hatred and violence by those who have come from around the country to ‘unite the right’ in Charlottesville is despicable and reprehensible.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson remarked, “I found the president’s support of the actions of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis hard to believe because it is so inconsistent with the journey that we have travelled as a country over the course of the last few centuries. Does he really believe ‘there is blame on both sides?’ Does he really believe this is a figment of the ‘fake media’s’ imagination when people marched and chanted ‘Jews will not replace us?’ Is he truly that beholden to those who purvey hatred?”
“The blatant racism on display in Charlottesville is absolutely disgusting. It’s hard to believe that in 2017, we are still plagued by so much race-based hatred. The NAACP will always stand against hate and any persons who threaten the moral right of our community,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP,
Rev. Al Sharpton expressed concern, saying, “The current state of emergency in Charlottesville and loss of lives is a scathing reminder to us all that the fight for justice is not over—we still have so much more to do. But, we cannot forget that this is also a symptom of the rhetoric the Trump administration has supported since the presidential election and into the White House, promoting violence, attacking civil rights and allowing organizations backed by bigots to thrive.”
The Congressional Black Caucus released a statement, which read, “Since the campaign, President Trump has encouraged and emboldened the type of racism and violence we saw today in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is a president after all who has two white supremacists working for him in the White House: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.”