One does not expect Fourth of July celebrations to be marred by dozens of White supremacists marching through the center of your city and clashing with passers-by, particularly in a city in the northern United States.
Yet, there they were this weekend in Philadelphia, a group of an estimated 150 – 200 members of the Patriot Front — an organization described by the Anti Defamation League as “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them” and who were among the organizers of the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — marching in front of Philadelphia City Hall with their flags, carrying shields not normally seen at your typical Independence Day parade, and displaying signs with slogans including “Reclaim America” and “The election was stolen.”
Video captured of the Patriot Front flash rally at City Hall, taking place at 10:30pm on a Saturday. Approximately 50 men in khakis with PF banners yell “Reclaim America!” on video in Center City Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/FrvULBTQqp
— Jordan Hopkins (@jhop_phl) July 4, 2021
Even worse than the display of racist sentiment in the multi-cultural city’s center is the fact that these neo-Nazis were not even homegrown demonstrators, but were instead, as police later discovered, all from outside of the city, with many having driven to Philadelphia from the Patriot Front’s native home of Texas.
Video footage showed some of the group piling into a rental truck with Indiana license plates.
Fascists are in Center City. pic.twitter.com/48OmTWeDWY
— Abdul-Aliy (@MxAbdulAliy) July 4, 2021
The unpermitted march by this group of outside agitators drew anger and heckling from the Philadelphia denizens that they passed along their route, who “engaged members of the group verbally” according to police before a series of scuffles broke out.
“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 in their crowd threw a type of smoke bomb to cover their retreat, and they literally ran away from the people of Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Police Officer Michael Crum told local ABC affilliate WPVI-TV.
Nothing like taking your kids to Philadelphia for the 4th & running into literal Nazis. These scumbags belong to the group Patriot Front. That may or may not be my kids & I joining a growing crowd yelling at the spineless dickholes & chasing them away from City Hall. #fucknazis pic.twitter.com/bqYviUq1Bd
— Not Today (@SunnyDelight888) July 4, 2021
The Patriot Front members allegedly used the cover of the smoke to retaliate by hitting and kicking angry onlookers who had begun to confront them, shout at them to leave, and bang on their trucks.
— Abdul-Aliy (@MxAbdulAliy) July 4, 2021
The police at the scene did not arrest any of the right-wing extremists, although they did question members of the group after pulling their trucks over “for safety reasons,” according to WPVI-TV.
Shira Goodman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia chapter, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Neo-Nazi demonstration was a form of threatening behavior by the racist group.
“It’s like they’re saying, ‘We’re here. We’re nearby,’” Goodman said. “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.”
Despite the scuffles, the police reported no damage or injuries tied to the unrest generated by the march, although a mural in North Philadelphia honoring George Floyd was defaced with Patriot Front graffiti.
George Floyd mural vandalized: White paint and logos of a white nationalist hate group now cover the artwork. https://t.co/d0sFg4pw6I
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) June 4, 2021
The fact that this White Nationalist march took place on the holiday celebrating America’s freedom and independence makes it even more despicable than it would be ordinarily.
Groups like the Patriot Front need to be condemned loudly, not just by the people they passed on the streets of Philadelphia, but by every decent American who values our collective freedom and doesn’t want racists dominating the national discourse.
Original reporting by Becca Hendrickson at WPVI-TV and by Daniel Politi at Slate.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.