Hundreds of “armed vigilantes” have taken to the streets of Philadelphia in a tense standoff with protesters as unrest continues to unfold in dozens of cities across the US following the death of George Floyd.
Several journalists on the ground shared video online, showing the group, made up of predominantly white men, wielding baseball bats and golf clubs in the suburb of Fishtown on Monday evening (local time).
Some were pictured to have hammers and one man, who was seen with an axe, yelled in one video: “I’m here to protect this f****** neighbourhood!”
The group announced they were local residents and said they had taken to the streets to “defend local businesses from rioters and looters”, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Filming from the scene, producer for local radio station WHYY Jon Ehrens described the group in “disarray” walking up and down one of Fishtown’s main streets.
He described several tense standoffs between the group and protesters before a large police presence arrived to try and defuse the situation.
Ehrens later shared an image of his bloodied face, claiming he and his girlfriend had been attacked by the group for filming.
I got called out for recording them and they beat the shit out of me and pushed my girlfriend pic.twitter.com/JMeR4SJ7y9— Jon Ehrens (@jwehrens) June 2, 2020
The group appeared to have largely dispersed by 9pm, Inquirer reporter Anna Orso said on Twitter, due to a sizeable police and SWAT presence separating the men and protesters.
Local reporter Josh Albert claimed the group of men were being allowed to roam the streets with weapons by police.
Earlier in the day video showed protesters in Philadelphia targeted with tear gas by police as they flee on the side of a highway embankment.
Orso tweeted protesters engaged with police asking: “Why were others teargassed for peacefully protesting but they could walk around with bats and be protected?”
One man was seen sprinting away from officers before his detainment, with Ehrens claiming he was in possession of a hatchet.
Stores right across the city have been targeted by looters over weekend and on Monday.
“They think they're doing the right thing and they're getting their point across, but they're really not. They are making it worse for black people," one local told WPVI-TV.
cops asked guys with bats to go home. Protesters now engaging them, asking “why were others teargassed for peacefully protesting but they could walk around with bats and be protected?” pic.twitter.com/esIfOP8C6k— Anna Orso (@anna_orso) June 2, 2020
Dear conservatives: “Big government” is not public programs that feed kids and house the homeless. Big government is a militarized police force occupying Philadelphia and shooting tear gas grenades into crowds of civilians. pic.twitter.com/iLHWWhqgcu— Aren R. LeBrun (@proustmalone) June 2, 2020
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