Around 150 white supremacists marched in front of Philadelphia City Hall late on Saturday night. The marchers were part of the Patriot Front, a known white supremacist group based in Texas, and they wore white face coverings while waving flags and shields. Some also carried signs that read “Reclaim America” and chanted “the election was stolen” while they marched. Police said none of the marchers were from Philadelphia.
It seems the white supremacists had their march cut short by angry onlookers who made their feelings clear about having white supremacists openly espousing their views on the streets of Philadelphia. The onlookers started yelling at the protesters and there were a few scuffles with the white supremacists. A witness said the marchers often tossed smoke bombs and then used that as a cover to hit and kick counterprotesters. Although police were present, they apparently didn’t get really involved as counterportesters and white supremacists traded blows.
Police said the onlookers eventually chased the white supremacists away. “They started engaging with citizens of Philadelphia, who were none too happy about what they were saying. These males felt threatened, and at one point somebody threw a smoke bomb to cover their retreat, and they literally ran away from the people of Philadelphia,” police officer Michael Crum told local ABC affiliate WPVI. Police later pulled over the trucks the white supremacists were traveling in for safety reasons.
The Anti-Defamation League defines the Patriot Front as “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them.” Patriot Front members are known to organize “localized flash mob demonstrations,” which is what appears to have taken place in Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Even though the march didn’t last long, experts who monitor extremist groups say it’s troubling that such a large group of Patriot Front members descended on Philadelphia during a holiday weekend. They say it demonstrates how the group has become increasingly active in Pennsylvania and likely took to the streets in a bit to not only spread its message but also recruit new members. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘We’re here. We’re nearby,’” Shira Goodman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia chapter, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The danger is always there. We know these groups have become more emboldened in recent years, and that things that have been in the shadows of the internet have come off-line.”