It’s late Saturday night on the streets of San Diego. People dressed head-to-toe in superhero outfits are patrolling the streets. With names like “Midnight Highwayman,” “Freedom Fighter” and “Vigilante Spider,” members of this citizen patrol group hope to make the streets safer.
The group calls itself the “Xtreme Justice League” and was founded in 2006. Made up of students, security officers and former service members, the assemblage looks strange and comic. But the group takes itself quite seriously. According to its Web site, members are trained in “citizen’s arrest, martial arts, basic first aid, conflict resolution and scenario training.” While the group does allow its members to carry some weapons for self-defense, it prohibits firearms. When coming across a serious crime, such as a rape, robbery, or murder, the group’s Web site says: “We would physically intervene, protect the victim from further harm, make a citizen’s arrest if it’s safe to do so, and call 9-1-1.”
They believe the costume helps. “It breaks the momentum of the conflict and that’s more important than almost anything because now they’re focused on me,” one member who goes by the name Midnight Highwayman told 7 San Diego in August. “They’re not focused on fighting each other, and it lets us de-escalate the situation, which is always our primary goal.”
Midnight Highwayman and friends refer to themselves as “real-life superheroes,” a term explained on their Web site: “A Real-Life Superhero or RLSH is an individual that is inspired by comic book superheroes. This person takes that inspiration and applies it to real life activism. The RLSH seeks to inspire and act as a symbol for good by performing heroic deeds while in a superhero themed costume and persona.”
Reuters photographer Mike Blake followed the group on patrol. Here’s some of what he saw.