Following months of protests and riots that broke out across the nation last year, some critics have complained that individuals engaged in destructive and violent acts have largely escaped criminal consequences.
Earlier this week, however, at least one participant was held responsible when he pleaded guilty to several civil violations and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
“When peaceful protests turn into violence and destruction”
According to the Washington Examiner, Abraham Jenkins had been charged with various crimes, including climbing onto and damaging a police cruiser and setting another patrol car on fire during a protest in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.
Jenkins was also accused of throwing a water bottle and one police officer and spraying a fire extinguisher at a group of cops during the May 30, 2020, riot.
Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced the development in a news release, explaining that his office “will always protect the First Amendment rights of South Carolinians” but vowed that “when peaceful protests turn into violence and destruction, the violent agitators committing crimes will be brought to justice.”
Furthermore, his statement noted that federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had worked in coordination with local police to fully investigate and prosecute instances of criminal wrongdoing associated with the protests.
“The Charleston Police Department applauds the successful resolution of this criminal case and the support displayed by the United States Attorney’s Office regarding this incident,” Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds revealed. “While the Charleston Police Department will always support our citizen’s right to peaceful protest, we will never condone violent or destructive acts that endanger our citizens or damage property.”
“Until justice is accomplished for all impacted”
The chief added that the probe into related criminal complaints remains ongoing.
“We will not rest until justice is accomplished for all impacted by those criminal acts,” Reynolds added.
In addition to the prison sentence, Jenkins also received three years of supervised release. He was the second of six individuals to be sentenced following federal prosecution in the Justice Department’s South Carolina district.
The 26-year-old reportedly pleaded guilty to federal charges in November and admitted his wrongdoing in statements provided to police and the court. He still faces state-level charges including vandalism, arson, rioting, and assault.
Nevertheless, defense attorney Cameron Blazer attempted to diminish the criminal behavior, describing it as a legitimate response to the “pervasive problem of extrajudicial killings of Black people in America.”