The man from Hendersonville, Tennessee, who was described in court filings as “the face of the attempt to burn down City Hall,” was sentenced today to federal prison for his participation in the arson of the Metro Courthouse on May 30, 2020, according to U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee, who announced the sentence today in a statement.
Wesley Somers, 26, was sentenced to five years in prison by U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger, followed by three years of supervised release following his conviction. “On May 30, 2020, scores of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers stood ready to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to engage in peaceful protest,” said U.S. Attorney Wildasin. “Every citizen’s constitutional right to engage in peaceful protest is protected by the First Amendment.”
“Unfortunately, Somers and others interfered with a lawful assembly and resorted to violence and destructive behavior, which resulted in significant property damage and placed many at risk of harm. Every individual’s freedom to enjoy their First Amendment liberties will always be upheld by the United States, but those who choose to exploit peaceful protest by resorting to violence and intimidation will not be tolerated.”
Somers was charged in a criminal complaint filed on June 3, 2020, in response to the protests that took place in downtown Nashville on May 30, 2020, in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
As nightfall approached, numerous individuals gathered in front of Nashville City Hall, also known as the Metro Courthouse, and began smashing the building’s glass and spraying graffiti on the building’s exterior, according to police reports.
It was also decided to set fire to the Courthouse’s interior. A large number of video clips and images of the destruction at the Courthouse were shared on social media websites, on the websites of news organizations, and on other websites throughout the Internet.
Somers is shown in one video setting a sign on fire and throwing it through the glass of the Courthouse. Somers then poured an accelerant into the blaze, which caused the fire inside the Courthouse to quickly grow and engulf the entire building.
After receiving multiple leads from the public, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department – Specialized Investigation Division was able to quickly identify Somers. He was apprehended.
Following Somers’ arrest and booking into the Davidson County Jail, according to court documents, he delighted in his newfound stardom and revealed to a friend over the telephone that he had been given the nickname “Protest” by his fellow inmates.
On October 20, 2020, Somers and Shelby Ligons, both 23 years old and from Nashville, Tennessee, were indicted. On June 29, 2021, Somers entered a guilty plea.
Shelby Ligons entered a guilty plea on March 3, 2021, and was sentenced to prison. She was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on August 11, 2021, after pleading guilty. In this case, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, the FBI, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, were all involved in the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the Department’s Counterterrorism Section, respectively.