Joshua Williams, a 19-year-old Ferguson protester, was handed an incredbily harsh 8-year prison term last Thursday for charges of arson, burglary, and stealing during riots following the police killing of Antonion Martin in Berkley, Missouri. Williams played a large role in the Ferguson protests following the death of Michael Brown, walking arm-in-arm with author and activist Cornell West, and was a member of the group known as the "Ferguson Front Line." Williams will now be facing more prison time than both cops who killed Martin, Brown, and many others.
Williams faced the charges after police said he entered a looted Quiktrip gas station across the street from where Martin had been killed, took some lighter fluid, and set a fire outside the store. Williams was caught on camera by both surveillance cameras and media outlets.
Williams became an unofficial spokesman for the protestors, being featured in national news sources for his activism. He told MSNBC his reason for becoming involved. "I just felt like they [police] were trying to get over on us, trying to push us so that we'd react." Williams said in 2014. "I was really upset. I saw children, little kids getting tear gassed and stuff. I just couldn't take it."
Many are outraged by his sentence, claiming that the length points to Williams being made into an example to others. Prosecutors in the case were originally asking for a 15-year sentence, but Williams' attorney asked for reduced sentence or a suspended sentence.
Williams will now spend the next 8 years of his young life in prison for setting a fire that was extinguished before it could do any damage. This fact is forcing many to ask the question of whether or not Williams is serving the time for his crimes alone, or for being a major member of the movement as a whole.
The eight year sentence will be longer than many killer cops face combined. While so many of them are either aquitted, or not even charged, Williams will serve a harsher sentence than some get for murder or abuse.
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(Photo: 2/Doug Berry/Ocean/Corbis)