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Dozens of white vigilantes armed with baseball bats, hammers, and other weapons roamed the streets of a Philadelphia neighborhood Monday night, shouting epithets at protesters and threatening violence. They sent at least one person to the hospital.
The group converged in Fishtown, a neighborhood in north Philadelphia, claiming they were protecting both its residents and the police. Video posted online shows the pro-cop demonstrators threatening Black Lives Matter protesters, challenging them to fights while holding baseball bats, and hurling homophobic slurs at them.
“A cop can’t defend himself so that’s why we’re here,” a man in a blue hoodie told Black Lives Matter protesters. “If anyone wants to throw shit at a cop, or pick on a cop, pick one of us the fuck out, and we’ll go around the corner and fight you.”
Later that night, members of the vigilante group reportedly attacked Jon Ehrens, a producer for local radio station WHYY who had been filming the demonstrations throughout the day. They bloodied his face and sent him to the hospital.
Ehrens later tweeted that he was fine.
Demonstrators from the group claimed they had the blessing of the Philadelphia police, and pictures and videos on Instagram showed Philadelphia police officers posing for pictures with some of the men.
Eventually the crowd dispersed after more police officers arrived along with a SWAT vehicle, according to the Inquirer.
Demonstrators had gathered in Philadelphia, like others around the country, to protest police brutality in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. But the confrontations in Fishtown were just a small piece of the havoc across the city.
Earlier, Philadelphia police teargassed protesters who had taken over I-676, a major highway in the city; police said, without providing evidence, that protesters had been throwing rocks. “I saw hundreds of people teargassed two hours ago for walking around, and these people are standing around with bats,” one man in Fishtown told police, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The owner of a South Philadelphia gun shop also shot and killed a man who was allegedly part of a group attempting to rob the store early Tuesday morning, and a district office of U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, was reportedly broken into.
Boyle joked that if those who broke in wanted voter registration forms, “then I would totally be cool with that.”
Cover: A stock image of a young man carrying a baseball bat. (Getty Images/Motortion)