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June 24, 2020

Philly man charged in attack on photographer at Marconi Plaza

Video shows incident during tense scene in South Philadelphia near the Christopher Columbus statue

Investigations Assaults
Marconi Punch Street View/Google

Photographer Mel D. Cole posted a video of a man assaulting him at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia near the Columbus Statue on June 23, 2020. Charges were later announced against 58-year-old John Mooney.

A man who was filmed punching a photographer at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia on Tuesday evening has been charged with assault and related offenses, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced.

MORE: Philly declares intent to take down Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza

The incident occurred after protests earlier Tuesday at the Municipal Services Building in Center City. Demonstrations spread to South Philadelphia, where tensions have remained high as the city considers the fate of the boxed-up Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza.

Mel D. Cole, a Black photographer who documents hip-hop artists, was among those gathered at the plaza on Tuesday evening. Groups of residents claiming to defend the Christopher Columbus statue have been congregating there during the past week, resulting in verbal and sometimes physical altercations.

Police have patrolled the area during the ongoing conflict, but some videos on social media show officers seemingly ignoring verbal threats and intimidation by these groups, despite some of these residents being armed with blunt objects.

Cole posted several videos Tuesday night including one in which he said he was "sucker-punched in the jaw by a racist white man." (Note: Video contains offensive language).

At one point in the video, a man wearing a Philadelphia Phillies T-shirt repeatedly shouts, "Get out of here, boy!" He then throws a punch at Cole, who drops his phone. Voices can be heard talking about placing the man who threw the punch in handcuffs.

Cole said in his Instagram post that he was not seriously injured.

On Wednesday, Krasner announced charges against 58-year-old John Mooney. Separate video reviewed by the D.A.'s office showed Mooney's arrest by police at the scene.

"During widely documented altercations in the Fishtown neighborhood and at Marconi Plaza in South Philly, anti-racism protesters and journalists have been verbally and physically assaulted, in direct view of law enforcement officers who have – by the numbers – made far more arrests of protesters and journalists than they have of these bat-wielding, assaultive, and threatening individuals," Krasner said Wednesday.

Mooney is charged with ethnic intimidation, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and harassment.

“For four consecutive weeks, thousands of Philadelphians have been peacefully taking to the streets to demand equal justice and accountability for all institutions, including the Philadelphia Police Department, and have done so without wielding bats, hammers, firearms, or racial epithets," Krasner said. 

“To the elected officials who are watching these mass demonstrations for justice, I say: Do what is right and deliver the accountability and the justice that the people demand," the D.A. added. "Protect journalists. Protect free speech. Stop protecting people who won’t leave their bats at home.”