- By Chris Joyner The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Marietta resident with militia ties has been identified on social media as one of a group of men seen bloodying a counter-protester during Saturday’s racial violence in Charlottesville, Va.
Michael Ramos, 33, is seen in videos online swinging at DeAndre Harris, a 20-year-old Charlottesville resident. In the video, Harris is on the ground at the entrance to a parking garage while several white men take turns beating him with sticks and fists.
Harris escaped the men but suffered serious injuries, including a chipped tooth, a broken wrist and a gash to his head that required eight staples to close, according to an interview Harris gave after he had been treated for his injuries.
Soon after video of the attack emerged, Twitter users began hunting for the assailants. Ramos was identified early, perhaps because he recorded an hour-long Facebook video once he was back in Georgia where he discussed his participation in fights at the Unite The Right rally.
Throughout the expletive- and slur-laden hour, Ramos repeatedly indicates he fought counter-protesters but only in self-defense.
“Nobody else was protecting us. Yeah, I’m glad I stomped some a** out there,” he said. “You hurt my people I guess we hurt you back.”
Ramos, who has deactivated his social media accounts since the video was recorded, repeatedly said he is not a racist, but had joined with racists to fight the “common f***ing enemy … the radical, f***ing leftists.”
“That is why I went there and marched with those a**holes,” he said. “They might be a**holes. I might not like them. I marched with them for one common f***ing goal.”
Numerous photos taken at the march show the tall, bearded man walking the Charlottesville streets with an American flag on a long pole and a video shows him among the group that subsequently broke off during the attack of Harris. Ramos pulled the flag from the back seat of his car and showed it to his audience during his Facebook live stream.
Public records show Ramos’ last known address is in north Marietta, but he was not known to either the Marietta or Cobb County police. No one was home when a reporter knocked on the door Thursday. FBI officials declined comment and the Charlottesville Police Department did not return requests for comments on Ramos.
Earlier this week, the Charlottesville police asked witnesses and victims of crimes committed during the protest to come forward with information. Both federal and local police have come under fire for failing to make arrests in Harris’ very public beating.
On Friday, the Charlottesville Police Department issued a statement saying they were working with state and federal law enforcement on “the egregious assault” on Harris. The statement did not name any suspects but solicited tips.
If he is in Cobb County, local police do not, at this time, have any authority to arrest Ramos. Cobb County Police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce said the department has not received a warrant for Ramos’ arrest from either federal authorities or police in Virginia.
Shaun King, a columnist for the New York Daily News, used his large Twitter following to help identify Harris’ attackers, including Ramos. In a column published earlier this week, King juxtaposes the arrests of protesters who toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., with the lack of arrests in Harris’ beating.
“A black woman played a role in taking down a statue and justice is swift, but a group of white supremacists nearly kills a young black man, and all of a sudden justice slows down to a snail’s pace,” King wrote.
‘I didn’t jump nobody’
In his Facebook Live video, Ramos never gives his name and fends off commenters attempting to discover his identity. But he also identified himself as a Georgia resident of Puerto Rican descent, originally from the Bronx, with family in New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Puerto Rico — all locations which match available public records under his name.
At one point, a commenter asks him about his role in the violence.
“I didn’t jump nobody,” he says. “I know what you are talking about.Where do you see me beating somebody up? Do you see me in the attack mode? No, you just see me jumping around a lot.”
In photos and videos of the attack, Ramos can be seen rushing in at the last moment and landing a blow on Harris with what appears to be an object wrapped in a shirt and tied to his wrist.
In the Facebook stream, Ramos denies that he was armed. “I had a shirt wrapped around my hand so I could wipe my face,” he says.
Again and again, he vehemently denied any white supremacist leanings, blaming the Charlottesville Police for the violence during the rally.
“They were pushing them into opposition protesters so that they could be harmed,” he said. “You call me a f***ing white supremacist? I’m f***ing Spanish. I was raised in the (expletive) ghetto, a**holes.”
The Harris beating is an enduring image of the Unite The Right rally, but the singular event of violence occurred when a car, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields of Ohio, plowed into a group of protesters, killing Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others. Ramos lays the blame for that killing and the rest of the violence at the feet of the police.
“They were supposed to be here to protect and prevent any bad things from happening out there. That car shouldn’t have even been driving down that f***ing road,” he said. “Police, really? You let that car plow through the crowd and you blame us for it?”
Ties to local militia
In Georgia, Ramos was associated with the Georgia Security Force III%, a metro Atlanta-based, right-wing militia. But the leader of that group, Chris Hill, said he and Ramos severed ties earlier this year, in part because of Ramos’ increased alt-right activism.
“Michael Ramos is basically an idiot,” Hill said. “He made a piss-poor militiaman.”
In June, Ramos was among a group of militia members who posed during an anti-sharia law protest at Piedmont Park with State Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor.
Williams’ spokesman said the militia’s members asked for a picture after his remarks, and he agreed because they looked like “pro-gun supporters.”
Hill said Ramos was no longer a part of his group when he joined the militia for the photo. He said Ramos was there “as an activist.” Hill said his militia attend such events to provide security, rather than advocate for a cause.
Hill said Ramos had left his militia after he became interested in a California-based group known as the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, an alleged “defensive arm” of another extreme right group called the Proud Boys.
“He basically broke away from Georgia Security Force III%,” Hill said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempted to contact Ramos by email and at his last-known address, with no response. However, when a reporter contacted a relative through Facebook, someone claiming to be Ramos responded under another name.
That person said he was aware the newspaper had reached out to a family member and suggested an in-person meeting with a reporter. However, within hours that Facebook account was deactivated.
Before the account vanished, the person claiming to be Ramos tried to set the record straight.
“For the record at the moment, I am not! Absolutely not, a NAZI racist,” he wrote.
More on the violence from Charlottesville: