I, Shamar Betts, incited a riot through a Facebook post encouraging my people to join alongside the rest of the world in an attempt to express our feelings on the tragic death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Although no one was harmed, the results of my uproar led to penalties of four years in Federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a restitution fine of $1,686,170.30 to be paid to the government for merchandise stolen and damages that occurred during the uprising.
Eight months later, on January 6, 2021, Donald Trump incited an insurrection by calling supporters to a rally and publicly addressing his frustration after losing the Presidential election to Joe Biden, which eventually led to hundreds of people bombarding and storming our nation’s Capitol. The outcome of this devious revenge tactic ended with five deaths, 140 police officers injured, and at least $1.5 million worth of damages to one of America’s most treasured landmarks.
Even with the severity of this crime, Mr. Trump has yet to receive any criminal punishment and somehow was able to swindle himself out of being impeached. Which means he still possesses the opportunity to run our country once again as president; while on the other hand, I’m forced to deal with society’s biased perception of another Black man who now has felonies in his background.
Here we have a man whose net worth is $3 billion and he hasn’t been obligated to pay anything for his reckless behavior, but the government finds it necessary to charge me with such a substantial amount, knowing that I come from a community where the average Black person could never see a million dollars in a lifetime!
My exaggerated sentence and restitution order wasn’t imposed based on my criminal history (which was non-existent), or even on acts that I personally committed. Donald Trump and former US Attorney General William Barr directed prosecutors to impose harsh penalties on Black Lives Matter protesters like myself. This led US Attorney Eugene Miller to claim that “the riot was organized for the very purpose of disrespecting the law.” When in reality, the uprising was started to raise awareness of our country’s inequality issues towards Black people—and also to express how hurt we were after watching George Floyd be savagely murdered.
Could you imagine how offended I am after sitting in a courtroom for hours listening to my character be assassinated, and then receiving in return the book thrown at me with full force? I mean seriously, could you possibly imagine how offended I am as I sit in my new caged home, forced to watch this white man who is three times my age arrogantly dodge every opportunity to accept responsibility for his actions—after I was made an example of?
At this point the oppressors’ message is crystal clear; they’re willing to snatch the tongue from a Black person’s mouth that they feel has tasted any bit of power—but those of their own, who already have a position of power, can abuse it in any shape, form, or fashion, and obviously get away with it!
With all that said, the question is: in the case of Donald Trump v. Shamar Betts, who wins? Well, I say I do! Because at the age of 19, I went against all odds, stood for a cause I believed in, and accepted every consequence that came behind my revolution like a real leader. Even with the government’s ATTEMPT to ruin my life, I stand strong against these mighty oppressors with my head held high. I may not have billions of dollars like Donald here, but what I do possess that he does not are good intentions and a pure heart.
[BettsImage1 about here. Caption: Shamar Betts is currently serving his four-year sentence in USP Hazelton, a high security federal prison in West Virginia.]
A Note From Shamar’s Friends:
Shamar has been in a medium-security federal prison in West Virginia since November, 2021. He and the other prisoners have spent the majority of the past nine months on lockdown, for security reasons and because of staff shortages. This has made it challenging for Shamar to participate in the types of programs that would facilitate an early release. (We are currently anticipating his release into a halfway house in mid- to late 2023.)
Communication by phone has been unreliable. When he has briefly talked about his experiences in prison, he has described a tense and violent place where prisoners scheme to buy and sell goods and services as a means of survival. Shamar is doing his best to stay away from trouble, and to read and participate in programs as much as possible. He asks that if you write to him, include your return address in the body of the letter. (He only receives photocopies of all materials, and return addresses are often cut off by the copier.) Information on writing Shamar can be found on his website under the tab “Offer Support.” You can also find links to previous media stories about Shamar in the “About” tab.
Shamar’s friends and family have set up a trust fund on his behalf where the money from his Go Fund Me campaign will be secured to be used only for his direct benefit, now and after his release. Looking forward, Shamar has decided to raise the goal of his campaign to cover the entire amount of the restitution that he has been ordered to pay to the Federal government, over $1.6 million.
This summer Shamar decided that he was ready to start speaking out and standing up for himself, with his own words. Please share his statement with others and help us to bring nationwide awareness of his story.
Shamar Betts is a graduate of Urbana High School who enjoys chess and reading. He is now serving the second year of a four-year federal sentence for authoring an angry Facebook post in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. His case is currently in federal appeals court.
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