A 26-year-old Tacoma, Washington, woman was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 5 years in prison for arson for burning five Seattle Police vehicles parked around Sixth and Pine in downtown Seattle on Saturday, May 30, 2020, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Margaret Aislinn Channon was arrested June 11, 2020, following an investigation by the FBI, ATF, and Seattle Police Department. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said Channon’s conduct had done “tremendous damage to Black Lives Matter in Seattle.”
“The right to protest, gather, and call out injustices is one of the dearest and most important rights we enjoy in the United States,” said 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.”
According to records filed in the case, Channon appears in videos from a protest in downtown Seattle wearing distinctive clothing and showing tattoos on her hands and arms. Channon is captured on video using fire and aerosol cans to light five Seattle Police Department vehicles on fire. She is also shown entering various stores and stealing clothing. She admitted smashing the window at the Verizon Store and entering a sandwich shop and destroying the electronic cash register. Investigators identified Channon based on her clothing, tattoos, and information from her various social media accounts.
Channon’s most dangerous conduct was the arson of the vehicles using an aerosol can as a blowtorch. As prosecutors noted in their sentencing memo, “hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity of the police cars that Channon burned, some only a few feet away. All of them were in harm’s way if one of the vehicles had exploded.”
“This case is an example of the FBI’s commitment to investigating domestic terrorism cases, no matter what their motivations may be,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office. “The FBI believes in the peaceful expression of free speech, and Channon committed acts of violence and destruction, endangered other people, and distracted from and escalated demonstrations.”
“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. “We will vigorously investigate anyone who turns to arson and violence against our citizens, businesses and cities. This sentence is clearly warranted and should send a message that this behavior will never be tolerated.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Channon is responsible for restitution. Channon will be on three years of supervised release following her prison term.