A man described by prosecutors as a Ku Klux Klan leader was jailed for at least six years in Virginia on Monday for driving his truck into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in June.
Harry Rogers, 36, was convicted of six misdemeanors in connection with the June 7 incident, a spokesperson for the Henrico General District Court confirmed to BuzzFeed News. He still faces three felony counts of attempted malicious wounding — one for each of the people he hit with his truck.
“I was terrified,” protester and victim Richard Sebastian testified, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, which covered Monday's court hearing. “What I thought of immediately was what happened in Charlottesville, and thinking it could happen here.”
Rogers was said to have broadcast live videos of himself on Facebook before and after driving through the crowd.
“Let’s go have some fun,” he said in one prior to the incident.
"They scattered like cockroaches,” he said in another. “It’s kind of funny if you ask me.”
No one was seriously injured in the crash.
Rogers is also known as Skip Rogers, Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor told BuzzFeed News in June. A man by that name, who appears to resemble Harry Rogers, can be seen wearing KKK robes and carrying a Confederate flag outside a World War II memorial in photos published in a 2016 article by the Progress-Index.
Prosecutors said they found KKK memorabilia, patches, and a set of robes in his home, the Times-Dispatch reported.
The judge rejected three hate crime charges sought by prosecutors, ruling that the three victims, who were all white, were not targeted because of their race.
Taylor, the prosector, told BuzzFeed News in an email that she believed that law needs updating. “Our current law recognizes the ethnicity of the victim as a basis for our hate crime, but our current laws are insufficient; we need a law that will capture the hateful and vengeful intent of a defendant regardless of the skin color of the victim," she said. "A devout member of the KKK, whose ideology believes that people of color are inferior, does not believe in the Black Lives Matter movement. Any action towards a Black Lives Matter movement is one based in hate and that should be a reason to impose a harsher sentence."
Since national protests Black Lives Matter protests erupted earlier this year, scores of demonstrators have been hit by vehicles across the US.
Ari Weil, the deputy research director for the militant propaganda analysis team at the University of Chicago’s Chicago Project on Security and Threats, told BuzzFeed News that a flood of both flippant and serious online posts celebrating running down street-blocking protests had become something of a meme in far-right circles.
“For the right, encouragement is done in more implicit ways, through either memes that make light of running over protesters or statements that encourage it,” Weil told BuzzFeed News. “Examples include describing protesters as ‘speed bumps’ or writing, ‘If protesters get in my way, I'll run them over.’”
The Charlottesville attacker, for example, shared memes about driving into protesters prior to his deadly attack there in 2017, as did other members of the "Unite the Right" rally.
According to the Times-Dispatch, Virginia authorities said Rogers attended that rally and later protested at the funeral of Heather Heyer, the counterprotester who was killed.