Protesters face life in prison over police car attacks in NY

Protesters attack a police car during demonstrations in New York on May 30, 2020 -- similar incidents have led to federal indictments (AFP Photo/David Dee Delgado) (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - US prosecutors on Friday filed multiple charges against three protesters accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at police cars during anti-racism demonstrations in New York -- charges that could lead to life sentences.

The indictments, filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, accuse Samantha Shader, Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman of throwing explosive devices at police cars in two separate incidents in late May.

In both cases, no one was injured.

The three are facing seven charges including arson, possession and use of explosives and destructive devices, and public disorder.

"If convicted of all the counts, they potentially face up to life in prison," a spokesman for the US Attorney's office told AFP.

All three are in custody without bail, though their attorneys have appealed that decision.

The protests took place on the first weekend after George Floyd, an African American man, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

His death -- the latest in a long line of unarmed black men who have died at the hands of law enforcement -- ignited nationwide protests as the US faces a reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality.

Most of the demonstrations have been peaceful.

However, some of the protests in New York and other cities across the country -- including the nights at issue in this case -- devolved into looting and violence after dark.

The attitude of the New York police, who at times charged or violently pushed back the largely peaceful protesters, has been widely criticized. Some police officers were disciplined.

One of them was charged after he was filmed violently shoving a woman to the ground, making him the first NYPD officer to face criminal charges over the heavy-handed tactics.