A white man who was arrested after driving into Black Lives Matter protesters in Virginia on Sunday allegedly told authorities he is a Ku Klux Klan leader. According to The New York Times, Harry H. Rogers, who the county prosecutor said is “an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan”, is facing assault and battery charges.
Prosecutors also confirmed they are investigating the suspect for possible hate crime charges. There were no serious injuries reported in the aftermath of the incident.
There have been nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States after the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old black man lost his life after former Minneapolis cop, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on his neck for several minutes despite pleading that he could not breathe.
Per a statement from the Henrico County Police Division, they said they received a report of Rogers driving through a crowd of protesters in Lakeside before 6 pm.
“Several witnesses reported that a vehicle revved their engine and drove through the protesters occupying the roadway,” the police said, adding that Rogers was subsequently taken into custody after they responded to the scene.
Speaking to WTVR-TV, witnesses described moments before the incident and how it left people running for safety.
“This was a small gathering of 200-300 people many of whom brought their children or were elderly. Many of those in the back of the group were with their children or elderly,” the organizer said. “I witnessed him cut around drivers who were waiting behind the protest as he drove on the median so he could get closer to the protesters.”
Another witness added: “[The driver] revved his engine and sped up and I thought for sure people were going to die. People were screaming. I don’t know if we were in range of him hitting us, but we were afraid for our lives and fled out of the way.”
Rogers, who appeared in Henrico Court on Monday, is being held without bond, The New York Times further reports.
“The accused, by his own admission and by a cursory glance at social media, is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology,” Commonwealth’s Attorney for Henrico County, Shannon L. Taylor, said. “We are investigating whether hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
In a separate incident on Sunday, an armed white man was arrested for driving into Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Seattle and shooting and wounding a protester who confronted him after he stopped.
Both incidents are reminiscent of the Charlottesville car attack three years ago when a white man drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally, resulting in one fatality and over 20 injuries.
“While I am grateful that the victim’s injuries do not appear to be serious, an attack on peaceful protesters is heinous and despicable and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Taylor said. “We lived through this in Virginia in Charlottesville in 2017. I promise Henricoans that this egregious criminal act will not go unpunished. Hate has no place here under my watch.”