Philadelphians Mobilize Against Far Right Rally

11/19/2018

PHILADELPHIA ― With many in Pennsylvania still reeling from the aftermath of last month's deadly synagogue shooting, the top minds of Philadelphia's right-wing community from the Facebook group "Sports Beer and Politics" felt it was the perfect time to hold a gathering.

"We the people have been silenced for too long. It is far beyond time to make a stand and let our voices be heard," the group wrote on Facebook. "Too many times our voices are drowned out by the voices on the left. We need to be louder, we need to be stronger. We will let them know that their violent tactics will not keep us down or scare us away! The Silent Majority must make a stand now!!! This is our time!! This is our day."

It was a rallying cry to right-wing groups across the northeast who called on supporters to travel to Philadelphia yesterday.

Billed as a pro-Constitution, pro-ICE, pro-police, pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-illegal immigration rally, the "We The People Rally" tried to attract members of the right from all walks of life. Militia members, Three Percenters, and Trump supporters were all invited to join.

Similar to the deadly "Unite the Right" rally of Charlottesville that occurred last year, this rally planned to be something that would "Be the beginning," creating a level of unity among the right like no movement before.

Under that common banner, over 300 people promised to attend. But when the rally finally occurred, only a small fraction of those who had promised to show did. And they were quickly dwarfed in size by the number of protesters.

With Sports, Beer and Politics members armed with Gadsden flags and counter protesters with signs displaying the adopted Antifa mascot Gritty, the two faced off in Philadelphia. Outnumbered and outmatched, the right-wing demonstrators found their voices were quickly drowned out by the cries from the massive influx of counter protesters.

Cries of "Fascist Go Home!" and "Proud Boys not welcome," rung out in unison from hundreds of voices as the large police presence made sure to keep the groups separated.

Tensions were high; counter protesters expecting the worst came armed with medical kits. Some who had been present during the Charlottesville rally seemed genuinely fearful of another terrorist attack.

At the end of the day only three were injured and only four arrested. Although the gathering managed to avert serious violence, many still wondered how the city could have gotten to such a state.

The group behind the rally, Sports Beer and Politics, has been described as "the foremost organization for right-wing organizing in Philadelphia." It was founded by a life insurance agent named Zachary Rehl who has a history of organizing "Blue Lives Matter" and "Pro-Trump" events where members of far-right groups such as the Proud Boys have been invited as speakers.

The Facebook group has also been heavily criticized for many posts that it shares.

Some of these posts include publishing doxes of local educators and CNN employees, posting memes that praise Hitler Youth and support violence against protesters, along with other generally racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and white supremacist content.

The organizers of the rally have vehemently denied accusations of racism and promised to remove any white supremacist attendees, though past rallies have attracted self-proclaimed neo-Nazi" such as Identity Evropa leader Eli Mosley, who described the unity among the attendees during a previous rally in articles he wrote on The Daily Stormer and JewWorldOrder.org.

And a week before the rally, it looked like Philadelphia might turn into another Charlottesville.

The Keystone State Skinheads, a group whose members have been charged with hate crimes ranging from random attacks on minorities, to indiscriminately murdering the homeless had pledged to attend the rally. So had the Proud Boys.

After pledging to ban hate groups from attending the rally, locals flocked to the organizers' Facebook page to question if the Proud Boys would be allowed.

But despite the group being classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and despite the group's own founder describing the Proud Boys as a "gang" that "commits violence for fun," many members of Sports Beer and Politics defended the Proud Boys, claiming the group's numerous acts of violence were only committed in self-defense and that the group is neither violent nor a hate group.

The organizers' defense of the Proud Boys by only seemed to embolden those opposed to the rally, who began organizing a counter-protest named the Push Back Campaign, which began monitoring some of the attendees of the rally.

The counter-protestors went so far as to get one man-who was apparently invited as security for the rally-fired from his job at Comcast after publicly revealing him as a member of the Proud Boys.

As more and more news came out about the rally, opposition grew. A local petition received over 1,000 signatures asking that the permit for the rally be pulled and fliers with pictures of far-right leaders who vowed to attend appeared around the city, warning citizens to be on the lookout for them.

Tensions escalated as leaked chat logs revealed that right wing rally goers were planning to bring any weapons they legally could.

But on the day of the rally, far-right attendees were outnumbered within minutes. Police made quick work with their bicycles to push counter-demonstrators away from the sidewalk and across the street, allegedly injuring a protester in the process.

As the rally got underway, the number of right-wing attendees only grew into the dozens, while the number of counter-demonstrators swelled into the hundreds.

People from all walks of life showed up to oppose the Proud Boys. Some at the event included antifa and other local left wing political groups, while others were made up of ordinary people, such as priests, rabbis, and veterans who came armed with signs that promoted peace and civility.

None of the Neo-Nazis or Skinheads who vowed to come were spotted in the tiny crowd and most of those who were attending resembled something closer to members of the Tea Party than the Aryan Brotherhood.

Trump and NRA hats covered the heads of those in attendance and heated conversations between self-described Libertarians and Republicans included arguments over whether or not Patriot Act was always unjustifiable or if was only unjustifiable when Obama was president. 

Speakers at the event included Tye Smith, a Black Trump supporter and the president of a police foundation that hosts its event dinners at the Church of Scientology and whose primary source of income appears to be through a company he owns which organizes erotic sex parties.

Others who spoke during the rally included a man self-identified as a Delaware small business owner, who runs a Conservative Facebook page, and who rallied against taxation being theft. Just as he had begun to invite counter-demonstrators to send someone to cross the police barricade in order to debate him, the first skirmish occurred.

Police began to mobilize and press were apparently pushed from the scene. Many of the right-wing organizers assumed that the commotion was caused by antifa attempting to force past the police barricade, but it only took a few minutes before an officer explained how a member of the rally had snuck into the counter-demonstrator area and began attacking the counter-demonstrators.

At that point, the right-wing demonstrators were instructed to wrap up the rally, which they soon did an hour before they had scheduled to end it.

After being followed by press and counter-demonstrators to a nearby a police station, officers formed a barricade around the exit to protect the right wing demonstrators until their Ubers could arrive. After two Ubers and a cab driver refused to pick up any of the right wing attendees upon learning who they were, the attendees at the We the People rally were forced to simply walk home.

Despite having three chapters and dozens of members in the state of Philadelphia, two of the right wing rally's security told the Daily Dot that only two members of the Proud Boys actually showed up.

So what happened to scare away the dozens if not hundreds of far-right extremists who planned to march beside the Liberty Bell, leaving only the few moderate conservatives present to attend?

The answer to that question seems to be that the people of Philadelphia made it clear that right-wing extremists weren't welcome in their city.