A Jewish man was attacked Saturday by left-wing protesters in Philadelphia who suspected him of being part of a small far-right rally, according to activists at the scene.
The man, identified only as “Zachary” after asking that his name be withheld, had wandered across a tiny conservative rally of some 30 activists and a counter-protest of several hundred left-wing activists across a police cordon in Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, site of the city’s iconic Liberty Bell and outside the building where the American Declaration of Independence was signed.
The far-right rally, dubbed the “We the People” gathering, was organized by the Proud Boys activist group. The rally was smaller than expected. As one counter-protester, New Yorker Michael Bartolone, who had traveled to Philadelphia to take part in the counter-protest, complained to the Washington Post, “I kind of wonder if they were just screwing with us, that they made some event to get other people to waste their day.”
But despite the low numbers, tensions were high between the groups, and hundreds of police officers were deployed to separate the sides.
According to local news outlet Billy Penn, it was in the middle of that tense standoff that 34-year-old Jewish resident Zachary was mistakenly identified by some counter-protesters as a Proud Boy, and was attacked by several people who were present.
Alleged “proud boy” covering his face gets head-butted as he is being led away from protest. Attacker has been detained. More riot police arriving at Independence Mall now. pic.twitter.com/BUk6LrUZTa
— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) November 17, 2018
“In numerous videos…[Zachary] can be seen shielding his face with his jacket as he tried to flee Independence Mall early this afternoon after being labelled a Nazi and a Proud Boy,” Billy Penn reported.
The site quoted the Jewish man, a self-identified pacifist and organic produce salesman, as saying, “I was just an observer.”
When he approached an activist apparently filming him, Zachary said, “People surrounded me, then bam-bam-bam, I was pushed, punched, swarmed. I just threw my jacket up over my face — one as protection and two, I don’t want any more people to think I’m a Nazi! Then I look up and all I see is news cameras. The cops basically abandoned me. I’m looking for any car to jump into, and they’re asking, ‘How do we know you’re a Jew?'”
Zachary eventually managed to get into a cab, Billy Penn reported, but not before one counter-protester head-butted him in an assault caught on camera. The assailant was one of four counter-protesters arrested by police in an otherwise nonviolent standoff.
— Matt DeLucia (@MattDeLucia) November 17, 2018
In an apparent reference to the attack, Boston resident Gregg Housh told the Washington Post, “I’ve only seen one guy get punched so far today. That’s because one of the alt-right guys got out of their pen and walked around to the other side, walked right into the middle and starting yelling Trump stuff at them.”