Late on the evening of July 4th while most Americans were enjoying fireworks or leftovers from the weekend’s festivities, several hundred white supremacists took to the streets in Philadelphia for a hate-filled protest that ended directly in front of City Hall.
The group, called Patriot Front — which has been described by the Anti-Defamation League and other watchdog groups as a white supremacist organization — clashed with locals, shouted racist epithets and voiced their support for the Republican party and former President Donald Trump. The group even set off what was believed to be several smoke bombs at one point in the evening.
Philly Twitter, we just saw a bunch of masked folks on the parkway with banners saying “Reclaim America” and “America Is Not For Sale” and so on. Some had shields, and there was multicolored smoke. Feels like we witnessed something but not sure what? pic.twitter.com/lY53OVIRCa
— Eric Gilde (@EricGilde) July 4, 2021
The Associated Press reported that an “estimated at 150 to 200 people, marched for several blocks in Center City wearing tan pants and black shirts with face coverings, and carrying shields and flags. Police said they were chanting slogans such as ‘Reclaim America’ and ‘The election was stolen.’”
Although no injuries or arrests were reported, the Philadelphia Police Department later disclosed that several pedestrians engaged members of the Patriot Front “verbally” and with numerous “physical encounters.”
Fascists are in Center City. pic.twitter.com/48OmTWeDWY
— Abdul-Aliy (@MxAbdulAliy) July 4, 2021
As the public backlash grew and the group knew they were no longer welcome, police said this was when the group decided to set off their smoke bombs “to cover their retreat as they fled.”
According to the AP, “the Anti-Defamation League calls the Texas-based group ‘a white supremacist group’ that ‘espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ‘ethnic and cultural origins’ of their European ancestors.’” The League also says the Patriot Front frequently “participates in localized ‘flash mobs’ and torch marches/demonstrations.’”
Stunning photos by my Inquirer colleague Jessica Griffin of the march through Philadelphia by the far-right-extremist group Patriot Front — right near Independence Hall on the eve of July 4 https://t.co/Opvvcwr1yD
— Will Bunch (@Will_Bunch) July 4, 2021
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Shira Goodman from the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia chapter said, “the group had recently been distributing leaflets, posting stickers and spraying graffiti throughout the Philadelphia suburbs and Lehigh Valley and conducting flash mob-like meetings later posted on social media.”
Just hours before the protest began, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden had been in Philadelphia to help ring in the Fourth of July and celebrate the country’s reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic.