Philadelphia: Four Face Federal Charges for Police Vehicle Fires During May Uprising

Cover photo by Emma Lee

By Mike Talavera

Last week, attorney William M. McSwain announced new federal charges against four men who participated in the May Uprising in Philadelphia, making a total of nine protesters in the city now facing federal persecution. Related to the torching of police vehicles on May 30, these cases are being used by the state to further criminalize and intimidate the movement for Black Lives at a time when people are taking to the streets again demanding justice for the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr.

At the press conference, police officers and FBI agents made it clear that these indictments were meant to send a message to “violent” protesters. The state wants to split the most rebellious elements of mass movements from the rest to keep protests “peaceful” and under control. These state agents want people to forget that the May Uprisings were united by one demand after the police murder of George Floyd: “No Justice! No Peace!”

Anthony Smith, one of those indicted, is a prominent activist who helped organize the campaign demanding the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue, the notorious former police commissioner and mayor. Before his arrest, Anthony was engaged in a civil rights lawsuit against the city for the violent police response to the May Uprisings, who spilled the blood of protesters.

Another protester, Lore-Elisabeth Blumethal was arrested two weeks after the May Uprising, also related to the torching of a police car. She has been held in federal detention since June. The investigation leading to her arrest used her t-shirt, visible tattoo and information on social media to incriminate her.

There are four others facing federal charges for the expropriation of ATM machines following the May Uprising. All nine now targeted by this federal persecution are believed to have been denied bail and are being held in federal detention centers pending trial.

The class struggle brought to the fore by the May Uprisings saw both revolutionary violence, like torched police cars and expropriated goods, and reactionary violence in the form of police brutality and the arrests of over 14,000 protesters. The persecution of these Philadelphia protesters should inspire those fighting for Black Lives to demand that all charges against protesters be dropped and to resist attempts the US imperialist state to divide the people when they have every reason to unite against their common enemy.

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