Philadelphia Activist Sentenced To One Year In Prison For Flipping Over Police Car During Protest

Philadelphia Activist Sentenced To One Year In Prison For Flipping Over Police Car During Protest

Do you feel the punishment fits the crime?

A famous activist from West Philadelphia who admitted to helping to turn over a police car during the 2020 George Floyd protest will have to sit in prison for a year.

Anthony “Ant” Smith was sentenced on Nov. 28 after he entered a guilty plea in June to a federal charge of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder. His charges included aiding and abetting an arson. Smith, a former social studies teacher, acknowledged that he helped flip the vacant Philadelphia police car that was sitting outside of City Hall on May 31, 2020. Prosecutors said someone threw a road flare into the car, and shortly after, Smith threw a piece of paper into the flames. U.S. District Judge Juan Sánchez praised several friends, family and ex-students who supported Smith and even applauded him for his work in the community but said passionate leadership “comes with a heavy price.”

“You failed, in that regard, all of us,” the judge said, responding to the man’s negative influence and impact on public safety.

The activist took accountability for his actions, telling Sánchez they were “immature and emotional” and that he acted as a follower and not a leader that day.

The city of Philadelphia was hit with several violent protests following May 2020. On June 1, 2020, video footage showed dozens of police officers spraying angry protestors with tear gas while demonstrating on I-676. As images went viral, elected officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, were criticized for not stepping in as the West Philadelphia business corridor is known as a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Since then, lawyers with the Legal Defense Fund and Abolitionist Law Center announced a $9.25 million settlement with 340 residents of Philadelphia who accused police of using excessive force.

Smith’s lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, said that putting his client behind bars doesn’t serve justice and pointed out that Smith has already served three years on house arrest. His felony conviction has even banned him from teaching for the next 10 years. Hetznecker described his client’s actions as “a bad moment in his life against a lifetime of altruism.” On top of his year and one day sentence, Smith will serve two years of probation, which is less than the recommended 30 months from prosecutors.