Virginia thought policing problems were better when officers joined BLM rally — then they stormed the Capitol
Photos: Sergeant Thomas Robertson social media captured by ABC13

The riot in Charlottesville, Virginia was a huge turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement. It wasn't because suddenly people cared more about Black lives, unfortunately. It was the shock of seeing a flood of white men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, carrying tiki torches and chanting "Jews will not replace us!"

Americans watched live on television as a car intentionally sped forward into the crowd, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring others.

The New York Times remembered the aftermath when Bridgette Craighead was doing the Electric Slide with police officers at the first Black Lives Matter rally held in Rocky Mount, Virginia. The officers were friendly, the Times recalled. They brought pizza and Happy Meals from McDonald's.

"This, she thought, was the best of America," the Times said. "Police officers and Black Lives Matter activists laughing and dancing together. They were proving that, in some small way, their Southern county with its painful past was changing. They had gotten beyond the racist ways of older people. This made her feel proud.

She was photographed with Sgt. Thomas Robertson smiling in a moment of community and compassion. After the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, however, someone sent her a photo of Sgt. Robertson inside the building.

"At first, she did not believe it. Not her officers. But there they were, Officer Fracker giving the camera his middle finger. She confronted them on Facebook and they did not deny it. On the contrary, they were proud," the Times wrote.

"I can protest for what I believe in and still support your protest for what you believe in," fellow officer, Jacob Fracker wrote on Facebook. "After all, I fought for your right to do it."

He and Fracker were quickly arrested, their homes were searched and their weapons were taken.

Community members explain that all of these things started to get bad when former President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

"For years, I thought people hated Obama because of Obamacare, but at some point, I realized it didn't have a damned thing to do with no insurance," said retired police officer David Finney, who's Black. "White people hated Obama because he was a Black man who became president and elevated the Black race. Obama leveled the playing field. And that was a problem because before that, most white people truly felt that America belonged to them."

Colleagues remember Robertson being conservative, "but not in some big South-will-rise-again way," said the Times. He would buy people lunch and was called "nice," even if he wouldn't wear a body camera and promoted the Second Amendment.

"Robertson was one of the nicest guys on the force," Finney said. "He never came off to me as someone who wanted to suppress a Black person because he never treated me that way."

A veteran and friend to Officer Fracker is starting a militia branch in their city now to fight back against "the political class versus ordinary Americans."

It took just 12 years to upend the city.

Read the full story at the New York Times.