Washington state woman sentenced to prison for setting 5 Seattle police vehicles on fire during 2020 protest

The woman pleaded guilty to arson last September

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A Washington state woman was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for setting nearly a half dozen police vehicles on fire during protests in downtown Seattle in 2020.

Margaret Aislinn Channon, 26, from Tacoma, was captured on video using fire and aerosol cans to light five Seattle police vehicles on fire during a May 30 protest – following the death of George Floyd, according to a news release from the Department of Justice

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said her actions did "tremendous damage to Black Lives Matter in Seattle."

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A Seattle police car burns on May 30, 2020, in downtown Seattle, during protests over the police killing of George Floyd.  (Associated Press)

A Seattle police car burns on May 30, 2020, in downtown Seattle, during protests over the police killing of George Floyd.  (Associated Press)

"The right to protest, gather, and call out injustices is one of the dearest and most important rights we enjoy in the United States," added U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "Indeed, our democracy depends on both exercising and protecting these rights. But Ms. Channon’s conduct was itself an attack on democracy. She used the cover of lawful protests to carry out dangerous and destructive acts, risking the safety of everyone around her and undermining the important messages voiced by others."

In their sentencing memo, prosecutors noted that hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity where the police cars were burned, and some people were "only a few feet away."

Protesters demonstrate outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct after the building was boarded up and vacated and people continue rally against racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, June 8, 2020. 

Protesters demonstrate outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct after the building was boarded up and vacated and people continue rally against racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, June 8, 2020.  (Reuters)

"All of them were in harm’s way if one of the vehicles had exploded," the memo stated. 

Video also captured Channon entering various stores and stealing clothing, prosecutors said. Channon admitted to smashing the window at the Verizon Store and destroying the electronic cash register at a sandwich shop, according to the release. 

Investigators identified Channon based on her clothing, tattoos, and information from her social media accounts. 

Kelly Thomas Jackson, 20, allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at two Seattle police vehicles during a May 30 protests that devolved into a riot.

Kelly Thomas Jackson, 20, allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at two Seattle police vehicles during a May 30 protests that devolved into a riot. (Department of Justice)

She was arrested on June 11, 2020, following an investigation by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Seattle Police Department. 

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"It should be clear that lawful protests do not include the use of violent actions such as breaking store windows and committing theft and arson," said ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson. 

Channon pleaded guilty to arson last September.

In a letter to the court, Channon apologized for her actions, according to the Tacoma News Tribune

"Black Lives Matter is an organization with leadership that does not condone illegal activity," Channon wrote. "I apologize to the many workers and activists – who have given decades of their lives to building a countermeasure to police violence -- that did not want to see fire in June of 2020."

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Channon is responsible for restitution and will be on three years of supervised release following her prison term, the release stated.