Photo credit: Rich Fury / Getty Images
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Social media influencer Jake Joseph Paul faces misdemeanor charges following a riot at a mall outside Phoenix, police said Thursday. Paul, who has 20 million followers, says he was merely trying to find people protesting against the death of George Floyd.
Paul, 23, was identified as a participant in a riot last Saturday night at Scottsdale Fashion Square and has been charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly, the Scottsdale Police Department said in a statement.
Police determined that “Paul was present after the protest was declared an unlawful assembly and the rioters were urged to leave the area by police.” He entered and remained inside of the mall when it was closed, police said.
Sgt. Benjamin Hoster said he didn’t know whether Paul has an attorney and that he was issued a summons to appear in court “in a month.”
Paul, who has over 20 million YouTube subscribers, said in video posted Wednesday, that he and friends went to the mall to attend a protest against the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis.
They instead found people engaged in looting and property damage that included shattered windows of offices and stores, Paul said, adding that he didn’t participate in that activity.
“That’s the way it looked on camera. However that isn’t the case,” he said.
Paul said he kept walking in the mall area despite encountering the criminal activity because he still wanted to find the protest.
He said it was upsetting that social media posts accused him of vandalism. “I’m above that. I don’t’need to vanadalize. I don’t need to loot and I know it’s not the way forward.”
Paul said he was an “easy target” and that he has learned a lesson about entering situations that could pose problems. “But it’s not going to stop me from doing what I need to do.””