Ateenager who participated in multiple protests in Ferguson has been sentenced to eight years in prison for setting a local Berkeley, Mo. QuikTrip on fire.
According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Joshua Williams,19, broke into the gas station shortly after the death of Antonio Martin, an 18-year-old Black male fatally shot by Berkeley police last December. Police claim Williams stole multiple items from the store before setting it on fire.
During the November trial, Williams was found guilty of arson, burglary, and stealing. Supporters were present at the sentencing last week at St. Louis County Circuit Court, chanting “Justice for Josh Williams, justice for all of us.” Many were surprised to hear the eight-year punishment.
Prosecutors explained the burglary and stealing charges added more time to his sentence, which they recommend he should serve concurrently.
Prosecutors also asked for a 15-year sentence, but the time was reduced. Williams was frequently photographed during the protests for Michael Brown last summer. For Williams, Brown’s fatal shooting was a gateway into his interest in activism. A September 2014 MSNBC profile of the teenager described his growing frustration with the police department in the wake of Brown’s death.
“I learned that the police don’t give a care about us,” Williams said. “And I learned that we have to stand up and that you can’t get nowhere with violence but you can always move people without it,” he said. “I remember one night the police fired tear gas at us and I picked one of them up and threw it back at them. And the more we threw them back they just kept firing them back at us. It’s like it never stopped. I said to myself, we need another plan. This isn’t working.”
“I think we can be better if we can all come together,” he said. “We might have to come together and show that we can work together and overthrow the system. But we have to come together as one and show them we can be peaceful, that we can do this. If not they’re going to just want us to act up so they can pull out their toys on us again.”
Before participating in the protests, the teen wanted to be a professional dog trainer.
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