Minneapolis — The Hennepin County Attorney Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota has charged Patrick Smith, 24, a vocal Liberian immigrant featured by CNN at a protest for George Floyd, in Minneapolis this week, with one felony count of second degree riot with a dangerous weapon. Also charged along with Smith was Augustine Livingstone, 22, of Ramsey and Peter Shin, 29, of St. Paul. Livingstone is also a Liberian immigrant.
Floyd, 46, died at the hands of city police on Memorial Day, in the city that is the epicenter of the police brutality protests, sparking nationwide demonstrations across the United States.
Smith was captured by CNN protesting near the state's largest city Saturday night, with some harsh words for looters. "If you really feel like you have to take an opportunity, like if you're going to be an opportunistic, something's wrong with you," Smith told CNN.
Smith lamented that much of the property damage is being started by people who are trying to take advantage of the protests for personal gain and to appear to be cutting corners.
"If you cannot stand up and fight the good fight, and you want to be a cheater and go ahead and take what we're trying to do, something is wrong with you," Smith continued. "[Because] what we're trying to do is stand up for the basic rights of humanity, and that's what we're trying to do and we're trying to do in a peaceful way."
Police say Smith was carrying a loaded pistol in his waistband and had a backpack containing a hammer and spray paint. Shin allegedly had a backpack containing a firearm and an electric grinding tool. If convicted, all could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested in the days after Floyd's death. Controversial NFL star, Colin Kaepernick, who entered the national spotlight in 2016 when he kneeled during the national anthem and raised his fist to protest racial inequality, has established a fund to pay the legal fees for protesters in Minneapolis.
The Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative is working with top defense lawyers in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area to help those in need of legal assistance, according to the group's website.
The county attorney Mike Freeman will prosecute the case against Smith and his co-conspirators while Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will prosecutor is only responsible to prosecute the George Floyd's murder case. All other cases related to the protest including rioting, vandalism, arson, and curfew violation, will be prosecuted by the county attorney's office.
On Thursday, Smith's family expressed shock at his arrest. "We are taken aback by the charges and confused by all of this," a family member told FrontPageAfrica.
Mr. Jackson George, Honorary Consul for Liberia and head of the Liberian Business Association in the Diaspora told FrontPageAfrica Thursday said he has been in contact with the family and those advocating their cause. "They have been released awaiting trial. Augustine Livingstone trial is set for August 5th while Junior Smith the one who did the CNN Interview is set for August 4th. We have been in contact with Mr. Malcolm Quaye and Pastor Alexander Collins who are advocates for the family. I have informed the Liberian Ambassador but both individuals are Liberian Americans."