The summer after George Floyd’s murder was a tumultuous time in American history. Thousands of concerned citizens took to the streets peacefully to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. While most of the protests that erupted across the country were peaceful in nature, there were a few bad actors who spread violence, including 25-year-old white woman Margaret Channon, who has now been convicted of lighting up five Seattle police cars on May 30, 2020.
Channon of Tacoma, Washington, traveled to downtown Seattle after the murder of George Floyd to join thousands of peaceful protestors who were trying to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, Channon was armed with a makeshift flamethrower that she used to burn unoccupied, parked police vehicles after police unleashed lots of tear gas into the growing crowd. For about twenty-five minutes, Channon ran back and forth between the burning police vehicles to add more fire to ensure that the police cruisers would never be used again.
During her trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg insisted that most protestors were peaceful. But he also told U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour that Channon was on a mission to cause destruction in the wake of Floyd’s killing.
“She wasn’t alone, but Ms. Channon set the tone for what that protest became moving forward,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg said. “Ms. Channon left downtown Seattle in flames and in billowing smoke.”
Channon was the fifth and final defendant to be convicted and sentenced in federal court related to Seattle unrest charges. In addition to the work she did on the police cruisers, Channon also confessed to smashing Verizon store windows and destroying a cash register at a sandwich shop.
Channon has since apologized for her crimes. She shared a message through a sentencing memo that her lawyer provided to the court.
“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,” Channon wrote. “I had intended to effect positive change, but my attempt was misguided.”
Channon’s mother, Elizabeth MacGahan, also came to the young white woman’s defense by writing a letter to the court. She claimed that Channon comes from a family with a commitment to civil service. She also said that the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the recent deaths of her two grandmothers might have contributed to the young woman’s violence.
“It’s a very difficult time to be young and sensitive and to suffer losses,” she said.
Channon was identified after the civil unrest because of high-quality images taken during the rampage. Investigators were able to identify her with a unique tattoo on her hand.
“She had the letters’ W-A-I-F’ tattooed on the fingers of her left hand… The letters were oriented such that the bottom of the letters faced towards her fingertips,” an indictment from 2020 reads.
Channon was sentenced to five years in prison for burning down police vehicles during the May 30, 2020, civil unrest in Seattle, Washington.