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June 14, 2020

Mayor Kenney condemns group of people 'protecting' Christopher Columbus statue in South Philly

Roughly 100 individuals surrounded Marconi Plaza on Saturday to prevent the figure from being removed

Protests Statues
Christopher Columbus statue South Philly Screenshot via YouTube/Unicorn Riot

Roughly 100 residents of South Philly—many armed with weapons—gathered to protect the Christopher Columbus Statue in Marconi Plaza off South Broad Street on Saturday.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called the group of people who surrounded the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philly on Saturday “inappropriate” and said that “these individuals only bring more danger to themselves and the city.”

“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,” Kenney wrote on Twitter.

“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.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner took to Twitter as well to condemn the group that gathered around the Columbus statue.

A group of approximately 100 South Philly residents converged on Marconi Plaza on Saturday to protect the Christopher Columbus statue from being removed. Some of those guarding the statue on South Broad Street were wielding guns, baseball bats, golf clubs, and sticks.

Some of those who gathered allegedly assaulted a reporter named Chris Schiano from the media company Unicorn Riot after they were seen being filmed, as footage shows the reporter being hit in the head and having the tires of his bike slashed.

Some of those who gathered allegedly fought with police officers over the reporter covering the event and argued with the cops to get Schiano to stop filming the gathering.

Retired NFL defensive end and former Eagle Chris Long, who helped lead the Birds to their first Super Bowl title, didn’t appear to appreciate that one of the men seen verbally and physically assaulting the reporter was wearing a shirt depicting Long in the underdog masks from the championship run.

A Philadelphia police officer named Louis Campione also allegedly attempted to stop the reporter from filming and covering the event, as well as accused the reporter of instigating the crowd.

A smaller group returned to guard the statue on Sunday, with police officers monitoring the situation for a second-straight day.

Christopher Columbus statues have been toppled throughout the United States during protests following the death of George Floyd, who died in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25 after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Columbus has become notorious for his violent treatment of the indigenous populations in North America.

However, many supporters of the Columbus statues believe that they are a historic representation and symbol of the Italian heritage—rather than that of racism. 

One of the cities that has taken down a Columbus statue has been Camden, which removed the effigy on Thursday.

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