A group of people, several of them with bats, gathered in Marconi Plaza Sunday morning to prevent anyone from taking down the statue of Christopher Columbus following the removal of such monuments in Camden and Wilmington in the wake of continued protest surrounding the death of George Floyd.
On Sunday, Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted: “We are 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.”
Around 100 protesters had congregated at the site on Saturday, two of them with rifles. Some continued standing guard near the statue into Sunday morning as protest over Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last month continued to roil the city and the country.
According to the left-wing nonprofit news organization Unicorn Riot, several of the men assaulted one of their reporters on the scene Saturday and slashed his bike tires. "Philadelphia police then threatened our reporter with arrest for “inciting a riot,” and told the reporter to leave the scene, according to a statement on Unicorn Riot’s website.
On Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia police said they were aware of the incident and were investigating it.
Protesters demanding an end to police brutality and racism have defaced or removed Columbus statues in other cities such as Houston and San Francisco. Long celebrated for his trans-Atlantic exploits, Columbus has been the subject of revision by historians who say the Italian explorer enslaved and killed thousands of indigenous people during four trips to Caribbean islands.
In other incidents, late Saturday night, a crowd of 300 people smashed the windows of a police cruiser and looted an Exxon gas station in the 3100 block of N. Broad Street, according to Philadelphia police. The crowd was dispersed around midnight.
About an hour later, several men threw explosives at two restaurant employees and allegedly attempted to blow up an ATM early Sunday morning at the New Century restaurant in the 2500 block of Germantown Avenue according to 6-ABC.
It doesn’t appear that any money was taken, and the incident is being investigated by the Philadelphia police, as well as the fire marshal’s office and the ATF.