CHICAGO — A Chicago man was arrested Tuesday on a federal charge alleging that he incited a riot last summer by urging others online to join massive crowds of people who looted downtown businesses.
James Massey, 22, faces one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to incite a riot, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Massey appeared in a court hearing by telephone on Tuesday afternoon, and a judge ordered he be released on bond and placed on electronic monitoring.
According to the complaint, Massey on Aug. 9 posted several messages and videos on Facebook in which he called on others to take part in the widespread violence that erupted in the city on Aug. 9 and 10. According to the complaint unsealed on Tuesday, he told others that the looting starts at 12 a.m. and urged them to “BRING YA TOOLS SKI MASKS AND GLOVES.”
After police shot a man who had opened fire on officers on the city’s South Side, Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters there was a social media post urging people to form a car caravan and converge on the business and shopping district.
Further ratcheting up the tensions in the city was a video that circulated on Facebook falsely claiming that Chicago police had fatally shot a teenager.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday whether authorities believe Massey was responsible for that initial post or whether others may have done the same thing. But, according to the complaint, others responded to Massey’s messages, including one Facebook user who allegedly wrote that people “like 13 cars deep” were coming downtown.
Vandals smashed windows of dozen of businesses and made off with clothing, cash machines and anything else they could carry. Over several hours, police made more than 100 arrests, and more than a dozen officers were injured, Brown said at the time.
A marijuana dispensary was among the businesses vandalized. According to the complaint, the people responsible stormed the building using tools that they had taken from the trunk of Massey’s vehicle, which the complaint said was parked nearby.
In the complaint, prosecutors alleged that Massey can be seen on surveillance video walking to a store with a tire iron in his hand while another person smashed the store window. Prosecutors also allege he entered a store with several other people, grabbed some coats and left, then took part in vandalizing a convenience store and a cellphone store.
Chicago Police spokesman Tom Ahern said the investigation into Massey’s activities that night is continuing but that no charges in connection with the actual vandalism have been charged.
Don Babwin, The Associated Press