A Massachusetts police officer attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, five years ago and acted in key security and planning roles, HuffPost has confirmed. He also used an alias to post racist and antisemitic comments online. The officer, John Donnelly, was still an active-duty member of the police force until Thursday, shortly after HuffPost inquired about his status with the department and role in the deadly white supremacist rally.
Donnelly, 33, was a patrolman for the Woburn Police Department near Boston, where he has been employed since 2015.
But on the morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Donnelly could be seen on video arriving at the Charlottesville rally with Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist for whom Donnelly was apparently acting as a security guard. Spencer, Donnelly and a coterie of other suit-and-tie fascists worked their way into a city park where they held court beneath a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, posing for photos and talking into livestreams.
Donnelly was among hundreds of white supremacists who invaded the university town. His fellow attendees violently attacked counterprotesters, with one neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of anti-fascists, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others. That evening, Donnelly went to a party at a house near Charlottesville, where he joined in a celebration of the day’s events.
Donnelly then returned to Massachusetts and resumed his job as a cop.
His white supremacist activism and involvement in the Charlottesville rally has gone unknown for five years, during which time Donnelly — while still working as a police officer — became the president of a “back the blue” nonprofit raising money for law enforcement, as well as an award-winning real estate agent whose face is featured on a massive billboard in Woburn, a Boston suburb.
But last month, an anti-fascist collective called Ignite the Right provided HuffPost with evidence showing Donnelly attended the Charlottesville rally and connecting him to a series of deeply alarming messages posted online in which he advocated violence against leftists and minority groups.
HuffPost has verified the collective’s research and confirmed Donnelly’s employment with the Woburn Police Department.
After HuffPost contacted the department about Donnelly’s extremism, Police Chief Robert Rufo and Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin released a statement announcing Donnelly had been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“The Charlottesville rally is a dark moment in our history, and deeply disturbing,” Galvin said. “The City of Woburn is taking these allegations seriously by investigating the incident thoroughly and I will move to terminate Officer Donnelly if the investigation concludes that the allegations are accurate.”
Rufo added that if the allegations against Donnelly are sustained, the department will “ask the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to decertify Officer Donnelly, ensuring he may no longer serve in law enforcement” in the state.
In response to questions regarding whether Donnelly had ever been disciplined for violating codes of conduct, or whether he’d been the subject of civilian complaints, Rufo said HuffPost’s inquiries would be treated as a public records request and answered within 10 days.
Donnelly did not respond to multiple requests for comment. After HuffPost left him voicemails, emailed him and messaged him, he deleted his pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
White Supremacist ‘Johnny O’Malley,’ Patrolman Johnny Donnelly
Ignite the Right is a group dedicated to exposing every single person who participated in the 2017 event. “We do not forgive,” the group’s website states. “We do not forget.”
The site includes a database of white supremacists who have been identified as attending the demonstration. (HuffPost has not independently verified these IDs.) It also includes photos of the many white supremacists whose names are still unknown, five years later.
One of those photos was of a white man wearing a suit and sunglasses, sporting a “high-and-tight” haircut favored by fascists at the time.
The anti-fascists with Ignite the Right plugged that photo into a facial recognition tool. The software searched the internet and shot back a photo of an identical-looking man from a profile page on the online real estate marketplace Zillow. It belonged to a Boston-area realtor named John Donnelly, a “buyer’s agent” and “listing agent” catering to clients in the police and the military.
The anti-fascists then went to work finding corroboration that the facial recognition identification was correct — to prove Donnelly was really the man in the suit and sunglasses.
They found a video on YouTube, filmed by someone named “KK,” from the Aug. 12, 2017, rally, showing the man standing beneath Charlottesville’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. In the video he introduces himself to KK.
“I’m Johnny O’Malley,” he says.
The anti-fascists recognized this name and understood it was likely an alias. They’d seen a “Johnny O’Malley” in a private message group for white supremacists planning the Charlottesville rally. Most of the group’s members used pseudonyms.
The members’ messages to each other — hosted on the instant messaging platform Discord — were later obtained and published online by the independent media collective Unicorn Riot.
In a message on Aug. 14, 2017, someone in the group chat told “Johnny O’Malley” he’d seen him the YouTube video from Charlottesville. “Oh hey O’Malley, I saw you on KK’s video…nice glasses,” the message read.
“Oy vey… thanks lol,” O’Malley replied, suggesting that the O’Malley in the video and the O’Malley in the chat were the same man.
As the anti-fascists scrolled through messages from “Johnny O’Malley,” they found him divulging biographical details that matched those of John Donnelly, the real estate agent. O’Malley, for example, often talked about being Irish American and living in the Boston area.
And in a message dated Aug. 20, 2017, O’Malley wrote, “My sister got married to a huhwhite guy today… I’m trashed.” (“Huhwhite” is alt-right lingo for “white,” a reference to how some older white nationalists pronounce the word.)
According to the Facebook profile belonging to John Donnelly’s sister, she was married on Aug. 20, 2017.
Ignite the Right noticed on Donnelly’s LinkedIn page that he was not only a realtor; he was a cop. “Police Officer, City of Woburn,” the page said. “Acted in support of regular police operations serving arrests, enforcing traffic laws, and providing services to 40,000+ residents of Woburn.”
Earlier this week, HuffPost emailed the photo of “Johnny O’Malley” from Charlottesville to Rufo, the police chief, asking him to confirm the name and rank of the man in the photo.
“Johnny Donnelly,” Rufo responded. “Patrolman.”
‘Johnny O’Malley’ In Charlottesville
Donnelly was not some random attendee of the Charlottesville rally, but appears to have been deeply involved in organizing the event.
In the chat logs obtained by Unicorn Riot, where he used the name “Johnny O’Malley,” Donnelly can be seen coordinating flights and carpools to Charlottesville for Unite the Right.
In one message, Donnelly refers to himself as an Identity Evropa member, or at least suggests he is closely affiliated with those who are. Identity Evropa is a since-dissolved white supremacist group.
“If anyone heading downtown flying in Friday and has transportation … that wants to pick up two IE goys up at the airport, shoot me a [private message],” he wrote. “We’re flying into CVille airport.” (The word “goy” is a Jewish name for non-Jewish people that’s been appropriated by antisemites in recent years.)
In the video of Donnelly at the rally, it’s clear that he is working as a bodyguard for Spencer, the racist and antisemitic leader of the “alt-right” — a term Spencer coined to make his white supremacist movement sound more palatable to the general public.
Donnelly stands next to Spencer in the video. “Were you at the torch rally last night?” the cameraman asks Donnelly, referring to a demonstration on the evening of Aug. 11, 2017, when hundreds of white supremacists marched across the campus of the University of Virginia carrying tiki torches and chanting, “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”
“Yeah, I was protecting this guy,” Donnelly responded to the cameraman’s question, gesturing at Spencer.
After the video of Donnelly and Spencer was filmed, the Unite the Right rally attendees broke into various bigoted chants, some targeting anti-fascist demonstrators.
And a short time later, the rally exploded into violence, with white supremacists and anti-fascists trading blows in the streets for hours as police stood nearby, watching.
Police eventually declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and started to push the white supremacists out of Lee Park. Photos show Spencer pushing himself against a phalanx of riot police, screaming and not wanting to leave.
It’s unclear if Donnelly, a police officer, joined Spencer in pushing the police.
Scattered violence broke out around Charlottesville as the white supremacists made their way out of the city. One fascist contingent beat a Black counterprotester with flag poles inside a parking garage.
And a neo-Nazi named James Alex Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-fascists, sending people flying into the air and fatally injuring 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
That evening, Donnelly joined a celebration of this violence.
In a message posted in the Discord group, Donnelly described getting a cab to a party after the Unite the Right rally. “And I was redpilling the fuck out of the driver about the JQ,” Donnelly recounted. “Redpilling” means awakening to white supremacist beliefs, and “JQ” is an acronym for the “Jewish Question,” a phrase with Nazi roots referring to the antisemitic belief that Jews have undue influence and control over society.
Donnelly wrote that the cab was to “Azzmador’s house,” apparently a reference to Robert “Azzmador” Ray, an elder neo-Nazi who hosted a party at a safe house for white supremacists the evening of Aug. 12, 2017.
As HuffPost first reported, a video from that party shows Azzmador delivering a fiery speech after finding out about Heyer’s murder.
“This is our war!” he howled. “This has always been our war. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Death to traitors! Death to the enemies of the white race! Hail victory!”
Azzmador’s adoring fans responded with their own shouts of “Hail victory,” the English translation of the German Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil.”
They then broke into a racist and antisemitic song, set to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“My eyes have seen the glory of the trampling at the zoo. We’ve washed ourselves in n****rs’ blood and all the mongrels’ too. We’re taking down the ZOG machine Jew by Jew by Jew! The white man marches on!”
Donnelly didn’t respond to a HuffPost request for comment about whether he sang along.
Police Officer And Alt-Right Shitposter
Donnelly’s messages in the chat group are replete with racist and antisemitic slurs, along with appeals to violence.
“I wore my physical removal shirt from Right Wing Death Squad apparel to the gym today,” Donnelly wrote in one 2017 post. “Got some looks. If you’re not wearing offensive clothing to the gym, the kikes win.”
Right Wing Death Squad is an apparel company that was popular among the so-called alt-right in 2017. Its “physical removal” T-shirt is emblazoned with the words “PINOCHET DID NOTHING WRONG,” a reference to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s penchant for killing leftists by throwing them out of helicopters into the ocean.
An illustration on the back of the T-shirt depicts anti-fascists, or “antifa,” being thrown out of a helicopter. “MAKE COMMUNISTS AFRAID OF ROTARY AIRCRAFT AGAIN,” it says. “PHYSICAL REMOVAL SINCE 1973.”
Elsewhere in the chats, Donnelly wrote: “Friendly reminder that if you don’t lift today the kikes win.”
“We have enough fags in Boston we don’t need anymore,” read another message.
“Just call them n*****s,” read another.
He also once posted his email address, which contains the word rotors ― a likely reference to Pinochet’s helicopters.
That email address is connected to an account on Gab, a white-supremacist-friendly Twitter knockoff.
“Finally a place to shitpost without normie intervention,” Donnelly wrote on Gab.
“REMOVE KEBAB,” he wrote a short time later, using a racist alt-right euphemism for ethnically cleansing the U.S. and Europe of Muslims.
A Real Estate Agent, ‘Back The Blue’ Booster, And Firearms Instructor
Earlier this year, John Donnelly was the subject of a nice profile in Boston Agent Magazine, a local real estate trade publication. It began:
A Massachusetts resident for 32 years, John Donnelly, in his own words, is “an agent’s agent.” A Woburn native, Donnelly takes pride in the local connections he’s fostered in his three years in real estate and during his career as a police officer.
In addition to providing him an outlet to hone his social skills, Donnelly credits his experience on the police force with giving him a strong eye for detail and a fine-tuned negotiation style that helps him succeed today.
Donnelly now has a team of 15 motivated people working with him as The Donnelly Group, which primarily serves clients in the northern Boston and southern New Hampshire areas. “My team consists of a positive and fun atmosphere which promotes synergy, allowing us to get more done,” he remarks. In 2021, Century 21 also recognized Donnelly personally with the CENTURY 21 CENTURION® production award.
Donnelly got into the real estate business in 2018, according to his since-deleted LinkedIn profile. By November 2020, according to an Instagram post from The Donnelly Group, he had his own billboard in Woburn. The photo shows him standing with his German shepherd in front of the sign — which features his likeness and his business’s phone number.
Century 21 did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about Donnelly’s white supremacist activism.
Donnelly’s former LinkedIn profile also described him as being the “president” of a nonprofit organization called Irish Angel since February of this year.
“Irish Angel is a support network for Law Enforcement, EMS, Firefighters, and the Military,” the group’s website states. “We provide education, awareness, and resources about addictions, PTSD, PTSI, TBI, Depression, and anxiety.”
Irish Angel’s social media accounts frequently post images of the “Thin Blue Line” flag, and messages with the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” — common symbols in law enforcement communities across the country that were developed as a racist retort to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Donnelly frequently posts this type of pro-police propaganda on his own social media accounts.
He also appeared at a fundraiser for Irish Angel as recently as September 2021, according to a photo posted to Twitter that shows him posing with the organization’s founder, Amanda Coleman.
A short time after HuffPost emailed Irish Angel about evidence of Donnelly’s white supremacist activism, the organization removed his picture from its website.
“We’re absolutely disappointed and appalled in light of this information,” Jorey Herrscher, the group’s treasurer, told HuffPost on Thursday. “We certainly had no knowledge of that going on, or otherwise he never would’ve been in that position. It’s a sad thing that groups like the ones he belonged to can infiltrate the best of organizations.”
Herrscher said Donnelly was “immediately removed” as president of Irish Angel and that an investigation has been launched to ensure his white supremacist activities didn’t impact the organization’s mission.
Before Donnelly was a cop, before he was a real estate agent, and before he was the president of a police nonprofit, he worked with his father at Precision Point Firearms.
The company’s website describes it as “federally licensed manufacturer and dealer of firearms” in Massachusetts. According to the vanished LinkedIn page, Donnelly was a part owner of the company, as well as a “lead firearms instructor” and “expert witness” until January 2017.
Photos from Precision Point Firearms show Donnelly attending different gun fairs and posing with big guns.
And one post, from early August 2017 — a week before Donnelly flew down to Charlottesville — shows a pistol for sale next to a Precision Point Firearms-branded sticker.
“BLACK GUNS MATTER,” the sticker said.
Anti-Fascists To Unite The Right Attendees: We Will Find You
In the weeks leading up to the Charlottesville rally, Donnelly coached future attendees how not to be doxxed.
If you’re worried about being identified, Donnelly wrote to members of the group chat, try to be “low key.” Don’t wear T-shirts with slogans or carry signs that might attract the attention of photojournalists.
He also tried to put the white supremacists at ease.
“[Anti-fascists] can review all the footage they want, but unless there is a massive effort, they’re not going to be able to doxx every person there,” Donnelly wrote.
Five years later, Donnelly has been doxxed by precisely that kind of massive effort.
Ignite the Right is a coalition of anonymous anti-fascist researchers that formed on the five-year anniversary of the rally in Charlottesville this past August.
When it launched, the coalition implored people in communities across the country to send them tips that could help them ID people who attended Unite the Right.
The coalition now has the photos of 529 people who attended the rally on its website. Two-hundred eighty-one of them have been identified, a spokesperson said, while another 248 still need to be ID’d. (Again, HuffPost has not independently verified these IDs.)
Among the dozens of white supremacists the coalition claims to have exposed over the last few months was a computer science professor at Furman University in South Carolina. The professor, Christopher Healy, has been put on leave pending an investigation by the school.
In a statement to HuffPost this week, Ignite the Right emphasized that it will never stop its search to find the fascists who terrorized Charlottesville.
“A woman was murdered at Unite The Right by a white supremacist compatriot of neo-Nazi cop John Donnelly,” the statement said. “The white supremacists who attended Unite The Right are an ever-present danger to their communities. We cannot tolerate Nazi cops and Nazi gun dealers having the authority to execute or imprison people. All his cases must be reviewed.”
“White supremacists operate at all levels of society, including business, academia, and government,” the statement continued. “We will never stop hunting them down and exposing them.”