A crowd of armed men who said they were protecting Christopher Columbus statue gathered again Monday. Barricades have been there over the weekend.
On Saturday and Sunday, a mixture of residents, protestors, spectators and police converged.
A large group of men armed with bats, hammers, and a few firearms gathered at the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza Saturday to defend it from vandalism.
More people, both in favor and against the statue, arrived at Marconi Plaza, which is a public park, Sunday morning and held discussions about the topic.
Christopher Columbus has come under scrutiny amid racial activism across the country. Activists have pointed out Columbus’ brutality against indigenous people in the Americas as a reason for why he should not be revered. Several statues of Columbus have been taken down by local officials in Camden and Wilmington.
A day prior, a Unicorn Riot reporter was confronted by some of the men as he took a video of the proceedings.
Some men tried to swat his cellphone away while another grabbed and pulled his bicycle. Another man sliced the bike’s tires.
Philadelphia Police Department officers were present, but largely observed as events did not seem to escalate beyond those incidents, though they did stand between the reporter and the men at times and physically pushed back one man as he tried to swat away the reporter’s phone.
“We’re preserving culture. We’re preserving heritage and history. This has nothing to do with racism,” one of the men said of their reasons for being at the plaza.
Video shows the reporter eventually forced to leave by a Philadelphia police captain, who tells him he is “aggravating” a “volatile situation.”
Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted about the incident Sunday, writing that he is “aware of the groups of armed individuals ‘protecting’ the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza.”
“All vigilantism is inappropriate, and these individuals only bring more danger to themselves and the city,” Kenney said. He added, “We are also aware of an apparent assault caught on video tape, as well as possible restrictions placed on journalists filming the event. These incidents are under investigation at this time.”