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July 29, 2022

Jenkintown woman sentenced to prison for lighting police cars on fire during George Floyd protests

Lore Blumenthal, 35, was one of six people charged for similar crimes outside City Hall during a wave of civil unrest

Courts Sentencing
Blumenthal Police Car Fires Chris Naris/for PhillyVoice

Lore Blumenthal, 35, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for lighting two Philadelphia Police Department vehicles on fire during a protest on the north side of City Hall on May 30, 2020. What began as peaceful demonstrations for George Floyd became chaotic, sparking a wave of civil unrest in the city.

A Jenkintown woman has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for lighting two police cars on fire in Center City during the tense protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Lore Elisabeth Blumenthal, 35, reached a plea deal in March for two counts of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder. The deal downgraded the original arson charges that were filed against her a few weeks after the chaotic protest outside City Hall on May 30, 2020. 

Blumenthal has been detained since her arrest and may be released in the coming months for time served. In addition to the prison sentence, she was ordered to pay more than $95,000 in restitution and must serve two years' probation.

Four Philadelphia Police Department vehicles were set ablaze during the protests against police brutality that afternoon. Blumenthal was charged for her role in the fires that consumed a police sedan and an SUV.

In multiple videos posted on social media, Blumenthal was seen on the north side of City Hall wearing protective goggles and flame-retardant gloves. She took a flaming piece of wooden police barricade from the rear window of the police sedan — which was already on fire — and shoved it into the police SUV, FBI investigators said. The second vehicle ignited within minutes and both cars were destroyed.

Court filings obtained by the Inquirer indicated that the FBI tracked down Blumenthal down by zeroing in on a peace sign tattooed to her forearm and an article of clothing she wore, which was traced to her Etsy account and other identifying information online. Blumenthal had a massage studio in Jenkintown and also had been known as community care worker for people with HIV and other chronic illnesses. Her arrest inspired supporters to advocate for her release and other causes close to her. 

"Torching a police car has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message," former U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said at the time. "It is a violent and despicable act that will be prosecuted in this district to the fullest extent of the law."

Blumenthal was one of six protesters charged who were charged with similar crimes stemming from the Center City demonstrations. One of them, 25-year-old, Ayoub Tabri, of Arlington, Virginia, was sentenced earlier this month to a year behind bars and ordered to pay $87,000 in restitution.

"Now that several of those arrested in Philadelphia in connection with arsons during the 2020 racial justice protests have been sentenced in federal court, it is important to reflect on the gravity of what happened in our city and across the country," said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero. "We witnessed a movement that spurred thousands of people to take to the streets to peacefully protest unequal treatment under the law, but some saw it as an opportunity to commit violent, destructive crimes that endangered the lives of many, and ultimately robbed taxpayer-funded resources from the mission of protecting the public."

The protests in Philadelphia were part of a national wave of civil unrest in the weeks after Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police.

Former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder in state court last December and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. Earlier this month, he was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights.

Chauvin had been federally charged for using excessive force when he kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, resulting in Floyd's death. Three other Minneapolis police officers who were present at the scene also have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 1/2 years to three years for their roles in failing to stop Chauvin.