Try to put yourself in this guy’s shoes for a moment just to get an idea of how unfair law enforcement officials and the courts can be. Imagine that it’s a pleasant, sunny day near the end of May in Washington, DC. You decide to go out with a bunch of your fellow peaceful protesters and make your voices heard. Then, just to add some emphasis to the statement you’re making, you light up a Molotov cocktail and chuck it at a police station. The cops, with their usual intolerant attitude, take a dim view of your literally flaming rhetoric and arrest you. What do you do then?
Well, if your name is Jarrett Pace you get yourself a lawyer and go to court claiming that fire is a protected form of free speech. You weren’t actually trying to burn down the police station. You were just making a statement about the deplorable societal conditions in our country. It’s brilliant, I tell you. (Washington Times)
The federal government says it was arson. The protester charged with igniting a Molotov cocktail outside the District of Columbia police station during the recent race riots says it is protected First Amendment speech.
Jarrett Jeremy Pace, on the night he set the fire, had said on Facebook he wanted to “burn a 12 station to the ground!” The number “12” is street slang for police.
But now, Mr. Pace argues in federal district court he was speaking metaphorically, that he actually tossed the firebomb on the street near the Fourth District police station rather than at it, and that his action was not meant to burn the station but rather to express solidarity with George Floyd and protesters in Minneapolis.
Mr. Pace definitely needs to hope that he’s got a good attorney because his legal problems recently received a major upgrade. Instead of just being charged locally with some sort of disturbance of the peace violation, his is one of the dozens of cases that have been picked up by the Justice Department. He’s now facing federal charges involving deploying an incendiary device at a law enforcement agency and he could wind up doing decades in the slammer for that. The Trump administration has been pushing for these types of charges to send a message to all of the arsonists currently burning down municipal and federal buildings around the country in the name of honoring George Floyd or something.
The other part of Pace’s defense is that he wasn’t actually trying to burn down the police station, you see. He threw the Molotov cocktail at the pavement, not the building. But is that true? Or did he just miss? The police claim that he botched the construction of the firebomb rather badly and when he attempted to ignite it, flaming fumes escaped and burned him, causing him to be unable to hit his target. Either way, when you whip out a bottle full of gasoline with a paper towel stuffed in it and apply your cigarette lighter to it, you’ve pretty much crossed the line from speech into terrorism.
But Pace isn’t without his defenders. The media has managed to trot out quite a few people who are willing to come to his defense. An Ohio lawyer named John David Betras is quoted as saying that the White House has some nefarious plan involving these federal charges. He said, “What the Justice Department is saying is ‘You want to protest, OK, we’re going to prosecute you federally.’”
Not for nothing, but nobody is being arrested for protesting. They’re being arrested for igniting firebombs in a public area.
Pace’s attorney is also trying to brush off what’s described as his client’s “extensive criminal record” by saying his offenses were mostly misdemeanors. He also claims that Pace has mental issues. Imagine that. In any event, Jarrett Pace is only one of the dozens of rioters who are now facing federal charges for “expressing themselves” via the use of Molotov cocktails. And it’s about time. Perhaps seeing a few dozen of their fellow mobsters going up the river for twenty years or more will slow down the arson rates a tad.