NASHVILLE- The Hendersonville, Tennessee man, described in court documents as ‘the face of the attempt to burn down City Hall,’ was sentenced to federal prison today for his part in the arson attack on the palace Metro Justice on May 30, 2020, U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Central District of Tennessee announced.
Wesley Somers, 26, was sentenced by US District Judge Aleta A. Trauger to five years in prison, followed by three years of probation. “On May 30, 2020, dozens of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers stood by to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to participate in peaceful protest,” U.S. Attorney Wildasin said.
“Unfortunately, Somers and others interfered with a lawful assembly and resorted to violence and destructive behavior, which resulted in significant property damage and put many people at risk. We will always stand up for the right of every individual to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, but we will not tolerate the actions of those who choose to exploit peaceful protest through the use of violence and intimidation.
Somers was charged in a criminal complaint on June 3, 2020, following the May 30and protests in downtown Nashville, which resulted from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In the evening, several people gathered outside Nashville City Hall, also known as the Metro Courthouse, and began breaking windows on the premises and spraying graffiti on the facade of the courthouse.
The interior of the courthouse was also set on fire. Numerous video clips and photographs of the destruction of the courthouse have been posted on social media sites, news outlet websites and other internet sites.
Video shows Somers lighting a sign on fire and placing it through the courthouse window. Somers then sprayed an accelerant into the fire, which quickly caused the fire to spread inside the courthouse.
Somers was quickly identified by the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department – Specialized Investigations Division, after receiving extensive tips from citizens.
Court filings also indicate that after Somers was arrested and incarcerated in the Davidson County Jail, Somers reveled in his newfound fame and said in a phone call that he was a celebrity among other inmates and had been nicknamed “Protest”.
Somers and Shelby Ligons, 23, of Nashville, Tennessee, were charged on October 20, 2020. Somers pleaded guilty on June 29, 2021.
Shelby Ligons pleaded guilty on March 3, 2021. She was sentenced on August 11, 2021 to one year and one day in prison. This case was investigated by the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department; the FBI; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader and Attorney General Justin Sher of the department’s Counterterrorism Section prosecuted the case.