After the murder of 18-year-old Antonio Martin, which was eerily similar to that of Michael Brown, volatile protests stormed the Ferguson area, and now 19-year-old Joshua Williams, a peaceful Missouri activist has been arrested for allegedly trying to set a convenience store on fire during Martin unrest.
The news comes as a shock to local protestors, many of whom had previously joined Williams in the movement against police brutality. Bishop Derrick Robinson of the Kingdom Destiny Fellowship shared with the local media that the crime seemed out of character for him: “Josh is one of the young activists, and all of us have taken close to him. We got to know his heart.” The store was in Berkeley, a town near Ferguson, and allegedly, Williams confessed to the arson on videotape during an interrogation.
The videotape in question features a black youth setting flame to wood in a Quik Trip bodega amongst looters, but believers in Williams’ innocence say it is hard to decipher the actual face of the arsonist. Williams was arrested due to his verbal confession and a favorite red sweater of his that he wore during prominent protests, also seen in the clip. He’s currently facing three charges of arson in the First Degree, Second Degree burglary, and stealing under $500 (that includes gum and a cigarette lighter). He could get five to fifteen years in jail as well.
This is a very unexpected turn for one of Ferguson’s most known protestors, it is sad to see a young life take such an abysmal turn. Williams had even earned the honor of being the focus of a positive profile of him and the Ferguson protests on MSNBC, titled “Portrait of a Protestor in Ferguson, Missouri.” In their story, he shared that he felt compelled to become an activist after Brown was killed. Williams has also been covered by Bloomberg and USA Today.