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Groups of armed vigilantes protect Philly neighborhood against rioters: ‘Don’t put our cops at risk!’

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After days of violence following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, some residents of the Fishtown neighborhood in Philadelphia say they have had enough.

Groups of mostly white residents of Fishtown have been seen patrolling streets in videos posted to social media armed with bats and warning rioters to end their attacks on police.

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In one clip, someone is heard yelling across the street to another group, “Don’t put our cops at risk,” as police officers fanned out in a line in the middle of the street separating the crowds.

At one point, a correspondent for NPR affiliate WHYY, Jon Ehrens, claims to have been attacked by a group of people, though it isn’t clear whether he was assaulted by rioters or, as some claim, one of the armed vigilante groups.

Philadelphia Daily News reporter and former WHYY correspondent claimed that Ehrens was beaten by one of the armed white groups, but it’s not clear if that’s accurate or why he was attacked.

That said, what is clear, it seems, is that there are groups of Fishtown residents who seem fed up with the irrational violence and destruction being committed in the name of Floyd, though having little to do with his death.

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On Saturday, more than a dozen Philadelphia police officers were injured during rioting and violence amid otherwise peaceful protests.

One officer, according to Fox 29 Philadelphia, was struck by a vehicle in Center City. Officials said the officer was in stable condition after being taken to a hospital after suffering a broken arm and other injuries.

Earlier in the evening, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters that 13 police officers suffered injuries “while attempting to control crowds, make arrests, prevent property breaches, and other acts of vandalism.” He added that the officers were hurt “as the result of liquid and solid projectiles being hurled at them.”

As demonstrators gathered at Center City, the protest turned violent as some people “committed numerous acts of vandalism and violence,” Outlaw said.

“The actions of those persons were unlawful and were not in furtherance of any ethical issue or cause,” Outlaw told reporters, echoing what other police officials and political leaders have said after days of rioting and destruction.

The police commissioner also noted that at least four police vehicles were attacked and burned.

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According to Philly Voice, more than 100 people were arrested during protests on Saturday alone.

The outlet also noted that Outlaw said the rioting was disrespectful to Floyd’s memory and did nothing to advance the cause of criminal justice reform.

“Those who caused harm here – whether it was physical harm, injuries, vandalism fires – those folk were not acting in alignment with the purpose of what those who were here earlier in the day were doing,” Outlaw, the city’s first black female police chief, said. “They were here specifically with the intent to destroy and quite frankly those folks didn’t look like me.”

“To hold up a Black Lives Matter sign and then use the destruction that they were committing, in the name of Black Lives Matter is not only a slap in the face, but it’s completely a setback for everything that’s been accomplished by those who have been working to improve civil rights over the many decades and those who have been working internally to do our parts to fix criminal justice system,” she added.

“We encourage peaceful demonstration. We encourage lawful assembly, but anything beyond that will not be tolerated.”

Jon Dougherty

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