Suspect charged after photographer punched during protest at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A man is facing charges after another night of unrest near the Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia.

On video from a Tuesday night protest, a man identified by police as 58-year-old John Mooney is heard antagonizing a person filming the video.

He then throws a punch and hits Mel D. Cole, a well-known photographer whose work with hip-hop stars has been featured in Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, and The Atlantic, just to name three.

Cole says he has been traveling around the past few weeks documenting the movement that has arisen in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

He says what you see in the Marconi Plaza video escalated soon after he arrived, as police tried to keep separation between protesters and counter-protesters.

"They're just shouting just about every racial thing they can say without saying the N-word. I was called a boy, I was told to go home, I was told to starve," Cole said.

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

Then, Cole says, it actually seems his lack of a response was the tipping point.

"I don't think he liked that I wasn't responding to him, and yea, he's just doing this finger-pointing and he just sucker-punched me right in the jaw," he said.
Cole says he was shaken-up, but not injured.

Mooney, meanwhile, has been arrested and is now facing several charges including ethnic intimidation, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and harassment.

Cole goes on to say that he has other projects to work on, but documenting the recent unrest has developed into a passion.

And he is not discouraged by what happened on Tuesday.

"I'm doing it not just for me," he said. "It's for everybody - everybody involved - so you can see the true story that everybody else is not showing from my eye."

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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.

Meanwhile, the City of Philadelphia said on Wednesday is it going to seek the removal of the Columbus statue next month.
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