PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced charges on Thursday against four people for the arson of a Philadelphia Police Department vehicle and two Pennsylvania State Police vehicle during the civil unrest that erupted in Philadelphia on May 30.
Thousands of people gathered in Philadelphia to protest the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, but the peaceful demonstrations later turned violent, resulting in widespread looting, burglary, arson, destruction of property and other violent acts.
During the May 30 violence, Carlos Matchett, 30, of Atlantic City, Khalif Miller, 25 and Anthony David Ale Smith, 29, both of Philadelphia, allegedly placed combustible materials into a Philadelphia Police Department vehicle after a road flare placed in the vehicle started a fire, officials said. As a result, the vehicle was destroyed.
A grand jury charged each of the defendants with two counts of arson, and one count of obstructing law enforcement in the commission of their duties during a civil disorder.
Around the same time, PSP troopers responded to the intersection of Broad and Vine streets. PSP placed two patrol SUVs at the on-ramp for I-676 to prevent protestors from gaining access to the highway. Soon thereafter, a group of individuals began attacking the two vehicles.
Officials said the windows were broken and equipment was stolen from inside before Ayoub Tabri, 24, of Arlington, Va., allegedly threw a lit road flare into the vehicle, igniting a fire that engulfed the SUV.
A grand jury charged the defendant with two counts of arson and one count of obstructing law enforcement in the commission of their duties during a civil disorder.
"I want to be clear that we at the U.S. Attorney's Office support peaceful protest - indeed, it is part of our job to protect First Amendment freedoms. We take that responsibility very seriously. But violence is not speech. There is no right to riot, loot, rob, destroy, or commit arson. If you engage in violent civil unrest and commit a federal crime in this district, we will come after you as hard as we can because residents deserve safe and secure neighborhoods, not mayhem," officials said.
If convicted, all four defendants face a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison, and a maximum possible sentence of 65 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $750,000.