Internet shreds empathy for lawyers who threw Molotov cocktail at cop car, mocks 'moment of madness' defense
On Thursday, August 6, the term “molotov cocktail” was trending on Twitter. Also known as a petrol bomb or gasoline bomb, a molotov cocktail is a crude incendiary device typically consisting of a bottle filled with a flammable liquid and with a means of ignition. So, why were Molotov cocktails the flavor of Thursday?
South African human rights lawyer Richard Spoor, on August 5, tweeted a New York Magazine story titled, ‘The Making of a Molotov Cocktail: Two lawyers, a summer of unrest, and a bottle of Bud Light'. Spoor wrote on Twitter: “A terribly sad story. Two young and idealistic lawyers get wrapped up in the BLM protest movement. In a moment of madness, they throw a Molotov cocktail into an abandoned police car and burn it. Now they face a minimum of 35 years in federal prison.”
He further said, “Most people, even good ones, do something stupid sometimes. When that results in the ruining of their otherwise good and productive lives, it’s tragic. I have seen it many times. In legal systems like ours, it can be mitigated, but in the U.S. with harsh minimum sentences, it can not,” adding, “Yo, people are harsh. So many supporters of hangings, amputations, and lengthy prison sentences. Me, I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. I have defended murderers and child abusers and I have never found mercy to be inappropriate.”
As per the NY Mag story, on May 29, four days after George Floyd was killed, in New York City, two young lawyers, Urooj Rahman and Colinford Mattis threw a molotov cocktail at a police car. Rahman threw the crude bomb, destroying the console of the NYPD vehicle, while Mattis drove. The police chased and caught up with them. Cops found a lighter and another Molotov cocktail in the passenger seat and the materials for making more in the back.
They have reportedly been charged with seven federal crimes including arson, conspiracy, and the commission of a “crime of violence” using a “destructive device”. If they are convicted, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years awaits them. According to NY Mag, Rahman and Mattis each face nonnegotiable sentences of 45 years to life. The story then goes on to profile both lawyers, talking about their future prospects. Both lawyers are painted as compassionate and good people, whose anger at systemic racism led to this life-changing moment.
Spoor’s tweet, in that light, is a reflection of what is in the story. However, that is not what others saw. His tweet, that has been quoted over 4,500 times, invariably reflects a trend that mocks the lawyer’s apparent compassion for the two and the line, “In a moment of madness they throw a Molotov cocktail into an abandoned police car and burn it.”
Unsurprisingly, the majority of this mockery came from Twitter accounts in the right-wing and the alt-right ecosystem. Prominent among these names were Jack Posobiec, Erielle Davidson, Matt Walsh, Dinesh D’Souza, Alex Marlow, Mark Wallace, Ian Miles Cheong, and more.
Several Twitter users also used pop-cultural references to mock Spoor. Several shared photos of Bob Odenkirk’s character Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman from ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ to demonstrate the supposed ridiculousness.
"Your Honor, this is a terribly sad story. My clients don't know how the molotov got into their hands, so they, in a moment of madness, threw it away, accidentally hitting a police car." https://t.co/VZHON2VSaS pic.twitter.com/xQhL6sUllY— Kaleb (@KalebPrime) August 6, 2020
A Twitter user wrote, “They threw Molotov cocktails at a police car and when caught, they had other explosive materials and lighters as they intended to throw more. This is not a ‘moment of madness’, it's called terrorism.” Another wrote, “Most people’s moment of madness involves randomly messaging an ex, not throwing a Molotov cocktail into an abandoned police car to burn it.”
Many more posed the question of what people do in “moments of madness” with mock-empathy,
Who among us hasn’t got carried away and thrown a Molotov cocktail at a police car? https://t.co/RgRNSsvzXw— Christopher Snowdon (@cjsnowdon) August 6, 2020