PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was blunt this week when it came to a group in Fishtown walking around, armed with bats after curfew.
“We understand a community’s desire to protect their neighborhood and if they want to do that in peace, we would allow it. But armed vigilantism will not be tolerated moving forward,” Kenney said.
Some questioned what the group was doing, who or what they were protecting and questioned their motives.
The man who organized the group spoke with Eyewitness News. He says he was just trying to protect his neighborhood and it ended up backfiring due to a few bad apples.
In most cases, perception is reality and for a group of men protecting their Fishtown neighborhood, things turned south quickly.
“The narrative of what’s being spun here is that me and my group were there to fight protesters, and it’s not true at all. That’s not what was going on,” said Fishtown resident Justin Haskell.
Haskell says a group of residents banned together Monday night to protect Fishtown businesses and home.
“We were just there to prevent people from running through the neighborhood and breaking things, running into houses, smashing up cars and breaking the mom and pop stores and all that other stuff,” Haskell said. “We weren’t there to fight protesters.”‘
He says a few who joined in were not there to protect the neighborhood but instead to spread hate.
Haskell says he supports the Black Lives Matter movement and realizes that carrying baseball bats wasn’t the best decision in hindsight.
“Yeah, we had bats and that looks bad with us having bats, but it was to show if you attack our neighborhood we’re going to defend it,” he said.
CBS3 spoke with two other men who stood with Haskell Monday night.
“It wasn’t against the Black Lives Matter, it wasn’t against none of that. It was against looters,” Fishtown resident Joshua Garcia said.
“I was just there riding for my buddy Justin and riding for a couple of my other teammates,” North Philadelphia resident Kevin Lasene said.
Haskell is hoping, with time, the perception will change.
Haskell also says a man who was captured on camera shouting racial slurs was not with his group and he condemns what was said.
Meanwhile, City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said her office will be investigating why the group was able to roam around with weapons in Fishtown, along with Philadelphia police’s use of tear gas against protesters on the Vine Street Expressway.