Protester Who Advocates Peace Charged with Setting Fire at Berkeley QT

Christine Byers and Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 27, 2014

One of the most frequently quoted and photographed Ferguson protesters was charged Saturday with setting fire to a Berkeley convenience store last week.

St. Louis County police arrested Joshua Williams, 19, of St. Louis, on Friday after several local media outlets and store surveillance captured images of him trying to set a pile of wood on fire outside the QuikTrip on North Hanley Road early Wednesday.

Williams confessed to setting fires at the store in a videotaped interview, according to court documents.

Police say Williams entered the QuikTrip shortly after looters shattered its glass doors during protests of the death of Antonio Martin, 18, who a police officer had shot earlier at the Mobil station across the street. {snip}

Williams can be seen in videos both inside and outside the looted QuikTrip, authorities said.


The Post-Dispatch, Bloomberg, USA Today and the Associated Press have quoted and photographed Williams. On Oct. 13, he was photographed walking arm-in-arm with author and activist Cornel West toward the St. Louis University campus where protesters staged a sit-in.

Cornel West arm-in-arm with Joshua Williams

Cornel West arm-in-arm with Joshua Williams

Williams’ most recent confrontation of St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson during a Ferguson Commission meeting landed him in the pages of this newspaper.

Williams came within feet of Dotson and shouted at him as he tried to answer questions from the panel. “Can someone please get this lying (expletive) ho off the mic!” Williams yelled.

Williams has been arrested at least twice during Ferguson-related protests for unlawful assembly as well as refusal to disperse.

Police say Williams used lighter fluid to set fires inside and outside the QuikTrip early Wednesday. He was charged with arson in the first degree, a felony. He is also charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor stealing for allegedly taking a lighter, gum and money from the store.

Williams has been quoted as an advocate for peaceful protests.

An MSNBC profile of Williams in September quoted him as saying, “We have to come together as one and show them we can be peaceful, that we can do this. If not, they’re going to just want us to act up so (police) can pull out their toys on us again.”

Later, he continued: “I learned that we have to stand up and that you can’t get nowhere with violence but you can always move people without it.”

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