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Independence Day eve in Philadelphia was marred by a white supremacist rally through Center City, but the rally ended in haste when onlookers challenged the hateful rhetoric and sent the marchers running.
Flags held aloft identified the marchers as members of the known hate group Patriot Front.
As the rally passed by City Hall and other central locations, a number of residents and bystanders began following the marchers and shouting at them. Activist Abdul-Aliy Muhammad told The Inquirer there were at least 10 to 15 counter-protesters who engaged, while police did not.
Later, after the marchers had backed away and climbed into rental trucks to depart, police did detain them, photos posted online show.
Police noted the onlookers’ earlier efforts.
“They started engaging with citizens of Philadelphia,” PPD Officer Michael Crum told 6ABC the next morning. “These males felt threatened, and, at one point, somebody in their crowd threw a type of smoke bomb to cover their retreat, and they literally ran away from the people of Philadelphia.”
Here’s what we know about what happened on the evening of July 3.
How many marchers were there and what did they look like?
About 150 to 200 people took part in the march, according to 6ABC. Police said none of them came from Philadelphia. (The organization is based in Texas.)
All were wearing white cowl masks that covered the bottom half of their faces, per multiple photos and videos posted to social media and published in the Inquirer. They were also wearing matching khaki pants and blue tops, similar to the Best Buy uniform, one observer noted.
As they marched, they carried clear plastic shields, plus a mix of American flags and flags bearing the Patriot Front logo. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the logo features a fasces — a bundle of sticks with an axe in the middle.
Where did they march and what were they saying?
The route started on the Ben Franklin Parkway, per multiple reports and photos, and passed by City Hall before ending near Penn’s Landing, where there were several Penske trucks waiting.
A banner carried by the group said “Reclaim America,” and members chanted things like “The election was stolen” and “Take America Back,” according to NBC10.
At one point, marchers took a cell phone from an NBC photographer, the network reported, but eventually returned it.
Who challenged them and how did it go?
Video shows members of the hate group running away as people shout “Get out of here!” and throw things at them.
Observers who followed the group back to Penn’s Landing noted the police weren’t doing anything as the marchers neared their rented trucks. “Y’all tear-gassed people on I-676, get these Nazis,” activist Muhammad says in a video posted on Twitter.
“Are they really Nazis?” another observer says in a separate video published on Instagram. “Nah, they white supremacists,” someone answers.
A group of residents then begins pummeling the marchers as they pile into what someone on video called “their escape vehicles,” with Patriot Front members setting off smoke bombs as they left.
Did police make any arrests?
There were no related arrests or reports of vandalism that evening, police confirmed to The Inquirer. Vandalism is something the group is known for.
The morning after the march, Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement saying he was “appalled” the group chose Philadelphia as the location for its rally.
“Patriot Front is a group that openly advocates for white supremacy,” Kenney said. ” While we respect everyone’s right to exercise free speech, our administration stands against everything these groups represent.”
What is Patriot Front and where did it come from?
Formed in the aftermath of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., the organization uses “a mix of vandalism and intimidation to foster anxiety,” ProPublica reported in a deep dive on Patriot Front’s origins.
Now based in Texas, the hate group’s manifesto calls for the formation of “a white ethnostate”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
It espouses racism and antisemitism under the notion that members’ ancestors “conquered America and bequeathed it to them alone,” per the Anti-Defamation League
Have they shown up in Philly before?
Saturday night’s march follows a recent surge in activity in this region, local Anti-Defamation League director Shira Goodman told The Inquirer.
The Patriot Front logo was stamped all over the George Floyd mural defaced in North Philly at the beginning of June.
In February, the group posted fliers in the Bethlehem Rose Garden and elsewhere in the area, according Leigh Valley Live. Stickers bearing the Patriot Front logo were seen in State College, the home of Penn State University, in January.