Four rioters who purportedly torched two police vehicles in the onslaught of violent protests in Philadelphia in May are now in trouble and may be facing federal charges.
According to KYW, Eastern District U.S. Attorney William McSwain declared the charges against 25-year-old Khalif Miller, 24-year-old Ayoub Tabri, 29-year-old Anthony Smith, and 30-year-old Carlos Matchett on Thursday.
The news outlet reported Anthony Smith, a social studies teacher for Youthbuild Charter School, face arson for his purported role in setting fire to a Philadelphia Police Department (PPD). Smith was joined by Miller and Matchett in the charges. The incident happened near the City Hall on May 30.
The three allegedly placed combustible materials in the patrol car parked near Broad Street and Market Street. They later tossed a lighted flare that completely burned the vehicle.
Paul Hetznecker, Smith’s attorney, defended his client, accusing the prosecutor of indicting Smith due to his “political activist” role.
He further alleged that the case against Smith is “part of a broader effort by this administration to criminalize and quell dissent expressed by a progressive political movement.
However, McSwain countered Smith’s criminal behavior landed him the charges, not his political leaning.
“Mr. Smith was not in any way, targeted by my office. I knew nothing about Mr. Smith or his affiliations until the investigation was nearly complete,” McSwain said in an interview.
He claimed they investigated alleged criminal behavior.
Tabri was charged for another incident involving arson of a Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) car also on May 30.
The two PSP SUVs were parked to block rioters from accessing the highway. However, Tabri and some members of his group demolished the patrol vehicles. They shattered the windows and stole road flares, fire extinguishers, and other police-issued equipment.
Investigators say Tabri threw a flair into one of the vehicles, which immediately engulfed and was consumed by fire.
Tabri now faces charges on two counts of arson and obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder.
Matchett was also charged by federal prosecutors for inciting riots and urging the protesters to loot stores in Atlantic City. He did this a day after he allegedly set fire to the patrol vehicle.
McSwain said people like Matchett could not go around breaking laws and expect impunity. He noted the CCTV footage help in solving the case.
“But violence is not speech,” McSwain to KYW.
“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,” he continued.