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Ex-Woburn police officer decertified over alleged role in 2017 Charlottesville white supremacy rally

John Donnelly’s name will also be entered into a national database of decertified police officers, state POST Commission says

White nationalist demonstrators were photographed at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017.Steve Helber/Associated Press

A former Woburn police officer who authorities say participated in the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., has been decertified by the Massachusetts commission that oversees policing standards, according to state records.

John Donnelly resigned from the Woburn Police Department in October amid an internal probe into his alleged role at the rally, which included neo-Nazi groups and claimed the life of a counterprotester.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, also known as the POST Commission, recently released information showing that Donnelly had entered a “Voluntary Decertification Agreement” with the commission on April 13, which was then upheld with an official decertification order on April 21.


As part of the order, Donnelly’s name will be listed in a national database of decertified officers, according to the document.

Donnelly could not be reached for comment Monday. His participation at the rally first surfaced in a report from the Huffington Post in October.

News of his decertification was first reported Monday by WCVB-TV.

Shortly after his resignation from the Woburn force last fall, the city’s mayor and police chief issued a statement saying the department’s investigation found Donnelly did “indeed attend, help plan and provide security” at the white supremacist gathering.

The officials said Donnelly, who used the alias Johnny O’Malley in person and online, associated with Identity Evropa, an organization that recruited members on college campuses and that the Anti-Defamation League called a “white supremacist group focused on the preservation of ‘white American culture’ and promoting white European identity.”

Identity Evropa changed its name to the American Identity Movement after the 2017 rally and later disbanded, officials said.

The department found Donnelly used “racist and antisemitic language.” He was also seen in rally photos and video clips in the security detail for Richard Spencer, whom the ADL identifies as “a white nationalist alt-right leader” and was a scheduled speaker and promoter of the event, officials said.


Donnelly was a reserve officer at the time of the Charlottesville rally. Officials said he “refused to be interviewed” as part of the Woburn Police Department’s investigation and resigned prior to its completion. Donnelly also lost his job as a real estate agent for Century 21 after details of his alleged role in the rally surfaced.

The Aug. 12, 2017, rally in Charlottesville, which involved members of neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, turned violent and led to the death of antiracism activist Heather Heyer, one of several counterdemonstrators who were struck by a car driven by avowed white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr.

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.