Philly is a trans city ‘Moms for fascism not welcome here’

Philadelphia

In multiple demonstrations and solidarity actions throughout Moms for Liberty’s four-day convention in Philadelphia, thousands turned out to tell the hate group: “Philly is a trans city; Philly is a Black city, and you’re not welcome here!”

Activist Sam Rise leads chants against Moms for Liberty, Philadelphia, June 29, 2023.

Many participated in giveaways of the books that M4L has tried to ban in schools and public libraries. Others gathered outside libraries to show support for LGBTQ+ activities being held there. At the Central Library demonstrators held up enlarged covers of books M4L has sought to ban. Mobile billboards exposing M4L circled the Marriott throughout the convention. 

The multiple-days protest kicked off with a press conference in LOVE Park on June 29, organized by the National Parents Union which has denounced M4L. Keri Rodrigues, from Boston, called on the gathering to “stand up and fight back. NPU has been around for years. We cannot allow our movement, based on deep love for our children, to be hijacked by this hate movement. Look what the U.S. Supreme Court did today with overturning affirmative action.” 

Protester outside the Moms for Liberty convention in Philadelphia, June 30, 2023.

Several speakers addressed M4L tactics of going after school boards’ COVID-19 policies, promoting bullying against LGBTQ+ youth and banning books that teach the history of racism in the U.S., so “their children don’t feel bad learning about the evils of white supremacy.”

As M4L held its opening reception at the Museum of the American Revolution at 3rd and Chestnut Streets later that day, hundreds of boisterous demonstrators were there to heckle participants with chants of “Shame” and “No Moms for Fascism in Philly!” Queer anthems including Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” were blasted from a sound truck.

Demonstrator outside Moms for Liberty convention in Philadelphia, June 30, 2023.

The protesters taunted M4L delegates as they disembarked from chartered buses to enter the museum, protected by their own private security and a wall of Philadelphia police, who had set up barricades to keep protesters away. Philadelphia is a host to thousands of conventions every year, but rarely are the police called on to protect participants. The city needs to explain who will foot the bill for these cops, sent to protect a hate group. 

For weeks, workers at the museum tried to have the event canceled, citing concern for their own security as many of them are gender-nonbinary. Seven groups of historians wrote to MAR administrators denouncing them for hosting M4L’s welcome reception and urging them to cancel, with one threatening to cancel their own upcoming event at MAR.

Demonstrators outside the Moms for Liberty convention in Philadelphia, June 30, 2023.

When the M4L convention opened at the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia on June 30, protests began at 9:00 a.m., when it started, and continued through the closing on July 2. There were day-long dance parties, with activists jeering M4L delegates whenever they appeared. From young children to gray-haired activists of every race and religion, people gathered outside the Marriott to demonstrate their opposition to the fascists inside. 

Five protesters were arrested on July 2 after blocking 12th Street traffic. After the arrests, Philadelphia cops in stormtrooper uniforms confronted and kettled the crowd. Another individual was later brutally thrown to the ground and arrested for waving a Pride flag over a barricade set up outside the Marriott. 

The events, organized by ACT UP Philadelphia and the Coalition to Oppose Hate, were endorsed by over 50 organizations and attracted participants from as far away as North Carolina and Oklahoma. 

Sam Rise leads chants against Moms for Liberty in Philadelphia, July 1, 2023.

‘Foot soldiers’ for DeSantis

A 2022 analysis by the UCLA School of Law found that 1.6 million people in the U.S., including 300,000 youth over the age of 13, identified as transgender. However, a major theme of the M4L convention, repeated by multiple speakers, was to deny transgender identity and argue that schools shouldn’t teach about the topic. Another pillar of M4L has been its push to ban books in order to limit classroom discussions about race and gender identity. 

GOP candidates for president who addressed the gathering included former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron “Don’t say gay” DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Founded in Florida in 2021, Moms for Liberty was characterized as “foot soldiers” for DeSantis, when he last ran for governor.

Protesters outside Moms for Liberty convention in Philadelphia, July 2, 2023.

A member of the far-right group Oath Keepers also addressed the convention.

Described as an “extremist, anti-government” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, some M4L chapters have been linked to groups like the Proud Boys. An Indiana chapter recently used a quote attributed to Adolph Hitler in its newsletter, until a backlash forced it to remove the reference.

Many protest participants voiced awareness that if opposition is not built now to groups like Moms for Liberty, it will be too late once the fascists gain more strength. But these weekend-long demonstrations offer a positive example of the kind of unified mass movement needed to push back the ultraright.

Protester outside Philadelphia Marriott, July 2, 2023.

Betsey Piette

Betsey.Piette@workers.org

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Betsey Piette

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