Armed Vigilantes Patrolling Philadelphia Streets as Police Stood By 'Shames the Entire City,' DA Says

Officials in Philadelphia have condemned the actions of police and a group of armed vigilantes who gathered amid the protests over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

Images emerged on social media showing a group of men, some of whom were carrying baseball bats and other objects, threatening and intimidating people taking part in the protests near the 26th District police station in the Fishtown area of the city on Monday.

The men gathered following days of looting and rioting in the city after disorder broke out in the wake of the protests. Officers allowed the armed men to remain on the streets even after the imposed 6 p.m. curfew in the city.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner described video of the men marching through Fishtown armed with bats and other weapons as "disgusting."

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"The sight of armed vigilantes in Philadelphia streets shames the entire city. By marching through Fishtown armed under the guise of protecting police—who are already armed themselves with guns, shields, helmets, and other weapons—from people who just want to be heard, those men further reinforced the idea that people cannot peacefully question authority without meeting violence," he said in a statement.

Images on social media also appeared to show police posing for photos and shaking hands with the alleged vigilante groups, as people standing on top of businesses armed with assault rifles watch and thank them.

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In a press conference, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney condemned those in Fishtown who "took it upon themselves" to protect their neighborhood amid the rioting.

"They picked up baseball bats and, in turn, exemplified the deep divides in our community. Their actions were antagonistic and made a bad situation worse," he said.

"We do not condone vigilantism. We understand a community's desire to protect their neighborhood, and if they want to do that in peace, we would allow it, regardless of neighborhood. But armed vigilantism will not be tolerated moving forward.

"I am glad the police eventually moved in to disperse the group, but I am not happy about how long it took. We tolerated last night for too long, and that was a mistake. We will not tolerate it moving forward."

Kenney described the reports of officers not only allowing the men to remain on the streets but also giving them high fives and taking photos with them as "unacceptable."

Krasner described how the officers tolerating the behavior of the armed men will "add to the hurt arising from George Floyd's killing by police."

"They are the problem, not the solution; they are the danger, not the peaceful protesters," Krasner said.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the group of armed men that had gathered "were ostensibly there to protect the police station" while gesturing air quotes with her fingers.

Outlaw said that while officers worked to keep the men and the opposing group separated, a physical assault occurred after the two groups were eventually moved on from the 26th district.

"To be clear, we do not condone any acts of violence. As an agency we don't take sides. Our mission is to always protect all persons personally," Outlaw said.

"While every person has a right to defend themselves and protect their property, we do not endorse or condone any form of vigilante justice, or taking the law into one's own hands."

Philadelphia Police declined to comment on the reports of officers posing with the armed men as there is an open internal investigation into the incident.

Larry Krasner
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner addresses the media after a press conference announcing Danielle Outlaw as the new Police Commissioner on December 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty
Armed Vigilantes Patrolling Philadelphia Streets as Police Stood By 'Shames the Entire City,' DA Says | U.S.