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Antifa, black-clad and often violent, is strong in Philly

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In January, on the evening of President Trump’s inauguration, a band of bandanna-wearing vandals raced along South Street, shattering the windows of two banks and a dozen storefronts.

“They came by and had masks on,” recalled Tanya Italia, manager of a high-end furniture store. “They just smashed the window with a hammer. It was just a day of vandalism. I don’t think of them as real protesters.”

The next month, an evening protest march along Broad Street turned ugly at Temple University. Some anti-Trump demonstrators tossed latex gloves filled with dye at Philadelphia police and campus officers, the university said.

 In May, police said up to 50 masked and black-clad men and women sprinted through a changing section of North Philadelphia, smashing windows in renovated buildings and more expensive cars and throwing Christmas ornaments filled with paint. They carried a banner that read: “Gentrification is death and revolt is life.”

These outbursts reflect the Philadelphia presence of antifa and its allies, a shadowy collection of extreme left-wing activists who, in their most controversial manifestations, have embraced property damage and street brawling as legitimate forms of protest. Their advocates insist that the group acts primarily as a defensive force, but also say a growing threat of homegrown fascism  justifies an aggressive punch or the outright silencing of hateful speech.

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