A man who has previously faced charges of assault and ethnic intimidation was arrested Thursday for allegedly assaulting a WHYY producer and his girlfriend in Fishtown on June 1, when a group of self-styled vigilantes, armed with baseball bats, gathered in response to protests and civil unrest.
George Graf, 36, is charged with two counts each of simple assault and reckless endangerment. He also was charged with felony criminal conspiracy to engage in aggravated assault, and a misdemeanor conspiracy-to-assault charge, an indication that other arrests may follow.
The charges come as residents are demanding answers about why police dismissed their repeated complaints and pleas for intervention. An Inquirer investigation found that 36 reports of “person with a weapon” between 4 and 10 p.m. in the area that night did not result any arrests.
WHYY producer Jon Ehrens was posting video of the scene when he reported that three or four members of the group turned on him, and began to punch and kick him and pushed his girlfriend.
Graf is the first person to be arrested in the attack. He has pleaded guilty to simple assault twice before.
The first incident, in 2004, occurred when a law student confronted an associate of Graf’s who had shouted an anti-Chinese slur out of a car window in Chinatown, according to court records. While the men argued, Graf came up behind the student and struck him in the back of the head with a golf club.
The second incident was in 2007 in Bristol, Bucks County, when Graf attacked a man after a hockey game, punching him, biting him, attempting to spit into his mouth, and kicking him in the face with an ice skate, records show. The man was taken to a hospital.
According to a law enforcement source, the investigation of Graf was initiated by the District Attorney’s Office, with subsequent collaboration by the Philadelphia police.
District Attorney Larry Krasner has criticized the police for their response to the recent civil unrest, contrasting their handling of the protests against the police killing of George Floyd with the response to white counter-protesters.
“I think police should do their jobs, which are to apply the law in a way that is evenhanded,” he was quoted in the Inquirer investigation as saying. “And I find it very problematic when you see law enforcement favoring one group over another and systematically refraining from reining in one group that is committing crimes.”