PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Crews finished building a barrier around the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia Tuesday evening. The statue has become the center of heated protests over the past few days.
But on Tuesday, the statue took a back seat to a new cause after a police officer familiar to the neighborhood was reassigned.
There were clashes near the statue between protesters who want it to stay and others who want it removed over the weekend.
A South Philadelphia police captain has been reassigned following those clashes. Now, the police union says they’ll fight to get his post back.
On top of the police union, there is a massive group of people who are standing behind Philadelphia Police Capt. Lou Campione.
Chopper 3 shows a couple hundred people calling for the city to give the captain back his South Philly post.
“Captain Lou is loved by everybody,” one man said.
Dozens of people came to Marconi Plaza Tuesday, holding signs and waving American flags, all to show support for Campione.
“He has the best interest of the people here,” one man said.
The expression of support was massive, as was the police presence.
“I came down here to show my support to the officers who are down here,” South Philadelphia resident Joe Meenan said.
But the 42-year veteran of the force has been reassigned from South Philadelphia all the way to the Northeast, according to the police union.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” one woman said.
Last weekend, a group of people protecting the Columbus statue and a group of activists who want it removed clashed at Marconi Plaza.
Left-wing news site Unicorn Riot was also forced out of the plaza. It recorded Capt. Campione saying its reporter was “inciting a riot.”
“Obviously this is a volatile situation and you’re aggravating the situation,” Campione said in the video
Now the police department’s Internal Affairs Division is reviewing the incident. But the Fraternal Order of Police says the captain diffused the situation and often goes beyond the call of duty.
“He started programs within the FOP that helps officers. He started Bottles and Badges,” FOP Vice President Steve Weiler said.
As the Columbus statue was being boarded up — an effort to protect it from damage, according to the city — South Philadelphia residents spilled onto Broad Street near Oregon Avenue, stopping traffic at times.
“This statue was put here by the people that live in this neighborhood, immigrants from Italy. That’s why it means so much,” South Philly resident Howard Raskin said.
Cops are now separating two groups of opposing opinion in South Philly after a few minor skirmishes. Focus has strayed a bit from Columbus. Very few seemed to notice when final board was hammered into place covering statue. @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/kgJT5bCxaU
— Alexandria Hoff (@AlexandriaHoff) June 16, 2020
Verbal and near physical altercations between activists and statue supporters continued throughout the evening. At times, police had to line up to separate both sides.
Many of the people who are supporting the captain are also calling on city leaders to continue funding the police.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation is also considering the fate of the Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing. One of the options being discussed is removing the monument altogether.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Alexandria Hoff contributed to this report.