BLM Protesters Face Potential Life Sentences For Vandalism
Black Lives Matter protesters in Utah are facing some serious prison time after being charged with criminal mischief with a gang enhancement.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the demonstrators are accused of smashing windows and splashing red paint. Their potential punishment, critics say, does not fit the alleged crime.
“This is so far beyond just the enforcement of the law [that] it feels retaliatory,” said Madalena McNeil, who is facing a potential life sentence over the charges.
On Wednesday (August 5), prosecutors said the charges and potential punishment is justified because protesters worked together to cause thousands of dollars in damage. Watchdogs, however cited that the use of the decades-old law is troubling especially considering it’s in the context of criminal justice reform.
The documents that relay the charges against McNeil claim she bought red paint at a Home Depot store before the July 9 demonstration, which was sparked by a ruling in a fatal police shooting case. She allegedly later yelled at police and shifted her weight as if she was going to slam into them during a demonstration.
“It’s really frustrating and scary … I just feel so much concern for what this means for the right to protest in general,” she said, according to the Times.
Salt Lake City’s mayor believes the charges are too extreme and is at odds with the county’s top prosecutor who argued that the vandalism crossed a line.
According to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, the Utah demonstrators are likely not going to serve any prison time, however they’d get at least five years if convicted as charged. Criminal cases often don’t end with defendants pleading guilty to the original charges brought against them.
“I don’t think anyone is going to be going to prison on this,” he said. “There’s some people who want to engage in protest, but they want to be absolved of any behavior,” he said. “This is not about protest. This is about people who are engaging in criminal conduct.”