Protest in Philadelphia as tensions grow over Christopher Columbus statue

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Protesters marched peacefully across Philadelphia on Tuesday amid tensions over a Christopher Colombus statue.

The march comes in the wake of what some protesters say is Philadelphia police's blind eye to armed vigilantism at Marconi Plaza--the site of the controversial Christopher Colombus statue.

Some residents claim the statue is an important part of Italian-American heritage and should be left alone. Others were denouncing Columbus, calling him a symbol of hate and oppression.

The protest started at the statue in South Philadelphia and made its way into Center City Philadelphia.

Some were also protesting to defund the police department.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars that could be going to things that would help people," said Brendan Okane.

Protesters like Zahirah Poree say she too would like to see funds diverted to more social issues.

"Invest more of that money into public health care and also our education system so that our kids can have a better chance at the future we want to achieve," said Poree.

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Chopper 6 over protest in Philadelphia on June 23, 2020.

Police say during an incident at the Municipal Services Building in Center City, 26 individuals were arrested and issued citations for failure to disperse.

The statue has fuled tension in the region for weeks.

One woman tells Action News she was assaulted on Monday night in an unprovoked attack.

"They're not out there protecting and just getting their message and voice heard, they're there to create violence," said one woman who wanted to remain anonymous.

RELATED: Tension continues over Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza
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Tension over the Christoper Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza continued on Wednesday in South Philadelphia.

The woman says Monday night she rode her bike to the plaza and was standing across the street from the statue when she was the victim of an unprovoked attack, and police did not help and told her to leave.

She says her attacker was with the armed men in front of the statue and destroyed her bike and kicked her leg. She filed a police report.

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Tuesday's march comes in the wake of what these protesters say is Philadelphia police's blind eye to armed vigilantism at Marconi Plaza-the site of the controversial Christopher Colombus statue.

She says she was not part of any of the protests but now feels compelled to join.

"I don't understand how that's allowed, then they were allowed to retreat to their post and high five and change shirts. And nothing happened to them, we were told to leave as if we did something wrong," the woman said.

RELATED: Pro-police rally held at Columbus statue in South Philadelphia
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Tensions continue to rise as a box is placed around Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza

Those who are defending the statue say they aren't looking for trouble. They say those who come to Marconi Plaza to protest are really just looking for trouble and to destroy property.

"We come here to protect the neighborhood. We're not here to brawl. But a lot of people from the other side are pushing a lot of buttons. When does it stop? Everything is boarded up," said one neighbor.

Anthony Giordano, who heads community group Stand Up South Philly, says they also don't approve of any racism or violence and asked the people who guarded the statue last week to stay home Tuesday.

"Tensions are high already so if you're there to engage another protester that's what they hopefully want you to do, sometimes, so then there's the interaction and someone says something then all the sudden peacefulness turns into non-peacefulness," he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney has announced plans to initiate a public process to consider the future of the statue.
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