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.
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.