A leading Ferguson protester who’s advocated for non-violent protest was arrested Friday for an act of violent protest after setting fire to — and robbing — a Berkeley, Missouri convenience store earlier this week.
Joshua Williams, 19, became a media favorite in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, frequently quoted in articles and photographed heavily at demonstrations.
Williams earned a glowing profile from MSNBC where he was depicted as the “portrait of a protester.” He even told MSNBC that the protests “can’t get nowhere with violence.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the activist disregarded his own advice and joined in the onrush of looters early Wednesday who struck a Berkeley QuikTrip store across the street from the gas station where an armed black man was shot and killed by a white police officer the same day. Crowds immediately gathered after the shooting and initiated a violent confrontation with police. (RELATED: Violence Erupts After White Police Officer Shoots Armed Black Man Near Ferguson)
Store surveillance captured Williams trying to set a pile of wood on fire in the QuikTrip. According to court documents, Williams confessed to setting the fires in the shop. He was charged with arson in the first degree, felony burglary and misdemeanor stealing. Besides trying set the wood on fire, Williams also allegedly made off with stolen goods and money from the store.
This isn’t Williams’s first run-in with the law. He has been arrested twice during Ferguson-related protests for unlawful assembly.
Protesters gathered late Friday and early Saturday at the St. Louis County Justice Center to demonstrate against Williams’s arrest. Many of them doubt he committed the act he’s charged with.
“He’s a great kid, an educated kid, a child who knows what he wants and is very active in the community,” Bishop Derrick Robinson, of Kingdom Destiny Fellowship International, told the Post-Dispatch.