PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A group of people gathered around a statue of Christopher Columbus in South Philadelphia over the weekend. They say they intended to protect it from vandals amid the recent protests despite criticism from the mayor.
Video showed people carrying baseball bats while a few others carried guns. Dozens of people were still standing guard near the statue Saturday night, but at one point, there were about 100 people there.
On Sunday, Mayor Jim Kenney wrote on Twitter that officials were aware of “groups of armed individuals ‘protecting'” the statue.
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.
— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) June 14, 2020
“All vigilantism is inappropriate, and these individuals only bring more danger to themselves and the city,” he wrote. “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 also tweeted about the group.
Prosecutors and police will uphold the law in Philly, consistent with their oaths, against criminal bullies.
So save your bats for a ball game. And save your hatchets for chopping wood. We remain the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
— DA Larry Krasner (@DA_LarryKrasner) June 14, 2020
In Philadelphia, a city with a deep Italian heritage, Columbus is celebrated with an annual holiday parade, and supporters at the statue said they considered him an emblem of their heritage.
“It would be over my dead body before they got to this statue,” said Anthony Ruggiero, 41, wearing an Italia jersey. “This is a part of history.”
Statues of Columbus were earlier removed in nearby Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)