Prosecutors said the man arrested for driving into protesters in Virginia on Sunday has been identified as a self-proclaimed Ku Klux Klan leader named Harry Rogers, CBS affiliate WTVR reports. Rogers has been charged with attempted malicious wounding, destruction of property, and assault and battery, police said.
A hate crime investigation is now underway, Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said, according to WTVR. In court on Monday, Taylor said during his arrest, Rogers told officers he was the president of the Ku Klux Klan in Virginia and the highest-ranking member not imprisoned.
“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,” Taylor said in a statement released after court. “We are investigating whether hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
In a jailhouse interview with WTVR’s Robert Hughes, Rogers admitted he had ties to the KKK, but denied that he told police he was the president. Rogers is due back in court in August.
Rogers first spoke to the station in 2013 as he prepared to raise a large Confederate flag outside of his home. “It makes me feel proud,” Rogers said at the time. He and his girlfriend appeared in a subsequent WTVR report when they were evicted them from their home after their initial appearance.
Rogers also made headlines in 2016, when he was seen in a KKK robe and holding a Confederate flag in front of the Colonial Heights War Memorial in Virginia. Local publication Progress-Index spoke to Rogers at the time. He told the paper he was the organizer of the National Association for Awakening Confederate Patriots and was there to exercise his first amendment right.
Witnesses at Sunday’s protest say Rogers revved his engine before driving through protesters at the Black Lives Matter march, WTVR reports. The protest was one of many that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Between 200 and 300 people attended Sunday’s demonstration, many of them bringing their children, according the organizer of the event, who did not want to be identified. “I witnessed [Rogers] cut around drivers who were waiting behind the protest as he drove on the median so he could get closer to the protesters,” the organizer said in a statement to WTVR.
Witness Eva Swanson also described the incident to WTVR. “[The driver] revved his engine and sped up and I thought for sure people were going to die. People were screaming,” Swanson said. “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.”
No one was seriously injured, according to WTVR. Taylor called Rogers’ actions “heinous and despicable,” adding they will “prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
“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,” Taylor said.
Video of the arrest was given to WTVR by the protest organizer. The footage shows protesters cheering as officers led Rogers to a police car in handcuffs.