Woburn police investigate whether officer helped plan a deadly white supremacist rally in 2017

Woburn police have placed an officer on leave amid allegations he was involved in a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

In a statement, Police chief Robert Rufo said he placed officer John Donnelly on leave after he learned of allegations that Donnelly may have helped plan — and attended — the so called "Unite the Right" rally. The rally included white supremacist groups and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Rufo said he recently learned of the allegations and Donnelly could lose his job.

“What was said and done in Charlottesville is in direct opposition to the core values of the Woburn Police Department, to serve all members of our community equally and treat them with dignity and respect,” Rufo said.

Donnelly, who was a reserve officer at the time of the rally,  will remain on leave pending an internal affairs investigation.

“The Charlottesville rally is a dark moment in our history, and deeply disturbing,” Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin said in the statement. “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.”

Donnelly did not respond to a request for comment.

Anti-racism activist Heather Heyer was killed and dozens of people were hurt at the Charlottesville rally when avowed white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove into counter demonstrators. Fields was sentenced to life in prison.


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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