(Photo by Phil Shirk)
On Saturday, August 15, self-professed "rednecks" gathered at the Weis Markets parking lot in Columbia to prepare for their planned "rebel run" through the town. The run was in indirect response to an incident that occurred last Monday night in the borough, involving a Confederate Flag.
Meanwhile, in town there was a heavy police presence in anticipation of the run. Police departments including West Hempfield, East Hempfield, Manor Township, East Lampeter, New Holland, and Millersville - as well as the Pennsylvania State Police - backed up the Columbia force. There were also reports of federal agents in the area due to the potential for hate crime.
State troopers cruised through town in patrol cars . . .
. . . and on a motorcycle.
Police also used bike patrols to canvass the area.
Crowds gathered on South Fourth in anticipation of the run.
This motorcycle and sidecar duo passed through the area while the street was still open.
During the wait, two Confederate Flags were mounted on a pickup truck parked on Fourth - in the midst of the crowd - but were later removed.
(Video by Jesse)
A Puerto Rican-American family across the street brought out their colors and also showed their patriotism by displaying an American Flag.
A Columbia police officer talked to the crowd.
After hours of waiting, reports filtered through the crowd that the rebels had been thwarted in their plan to ride through town. The authorities would not allow it. The gentleman shown above then offered much-needed comic relief by walking down the street and performing - to the delight of the crowd.
He was wearing a makeshift "robe" fashioned from a bed sheet (tablecloth?) in mockery of a KKK outfit.
He reassured the crowd that they need not fear anyone wearing such an outfit, because this is how ridiculous they would look.
The anticipated crisis was over.
Or was it?
A short time later, rebels gathered at Plane and Manor Streets. A crowd of protestors gathered there also. So did police.
Tensions were high. Unfortunately, some in the crowd taunted a black man who was with the rebels. When he attempted to respond, his compatriots restrained him and advised him to leave the scene to deescalate potential conflict.
Dave Chohany, one of the key players in the recent controversy, talked with police. Chohany's Confederate Flag was stolen from his pickup truck while it was parked near Sixth and Walnut Streets last Monday night, an incident that reportedly precipitated Saturday's rebel run.
More police officers from various departments arrived on the scene.
David Chohany carried a Confederate Flag.
A woman talked to the "rednecks" . . .
. . . and pleaded for understanding.
A state police officer talked to a citizen.
Soon after, rednecks left Plane and Manor and gathered once again at Weis Markets parking lot but soon dispersed from there. Once again, tensions were thought to have dispersed, also.
But a short time later, tempers flared once again. An incident on South Fourth involving a misunderstanding over bicycles spun almost out of control when a girl resisted arrest, and she and another suspect had to be subdued by police. In the midst of the melee, a West Hempfield police officer activated his taser and aimed it at members of the crowd in an attempt to restore order. The light from the taser's laser sight can be seen on the upper chest of the girl in the red shirt, in the photo above (which is a still shot from a video). Two suspects being restrained by police can also be seen in the shot. Although this incident was not directly related to the rebel run, citizens had been on edge all day out of anticipation. The girl involved suffered cuts to her mouth. A video of the incident is shown below.
Arrest on 4th Street - Part 1
Arrest on 4th Street - Part 2
Arrest of second suspect on 4th Street
A frame from the video, showing the second suspect being arrested by police.
After this third incident, police maintained foot patrols in the area and responded to various minor incidents throughout the night.
Overall, police showed admirable restraint in the face of provocation and did a good job of deescalating conflict several times throughout the day.