How Gritty Saved Philadelphia

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Report from Philadelphia, where a broad antifascist mobilization pushed the far-Right off the streets.

by Sam Bishop

In times of turmoil you often hear of certain individuals rising to the occasion and doing what must be done when others aren’t strong enough to do so.

In the city of brotherly love where many across the state are still reeling from the aftermath of last month’s deadly synagogue shooting, when faced with the prospect of far right marchers invading their city one individual did step up to the call. One individual did do what must be done when others weren’t strong enough to do it. 

His name was Gritty and he was the one who scared the fascists out of Philly.

Only a few short weeks ago The Keystone State Skinheads, 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 now infamous Proud Boys who had been planning to attend the rally since its announcement just before many of their members were charged with assaulting protesters in New York.

Despite pledging to ban hate groups from attending the rally and despite the Proud Boys classification as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and despite the groups own founder describing the Proud Boys as a “gang” who “commits violence for fun.” Many of the organizers of the rally defended the group as tensions escalated.

The defense of the Proud Boys by the organizers of the rally only seemed to embolden those opposed to the rally who began organizing a counter protest named the “Push Back Campaign” and began monitoring some of the attendees of the rally. Going as far as to getting 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, more members of the community became opposed to it. A local petition received over 1,000 signatures asking that the permit for the rally be pulled and fliers were put up around the city with pictures of far-Right leaders who vowed to attend warning citizens to be on the lookout for them.

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

But as the day finally came the far-Right rally 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. 

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As the rally got underway the number of right wing attendees expanded into tens of people while the number of counter-demonstrators swelled into the hundreds.  

People from all walks of life showed up to oppose the Proud Boys they believed to be invading their city. 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.’

Chants were made and the crowd continued to swell until the number of attendees at the Pushback Rally passed 1,000 and the number of attendees at the, We the People Rally totaled at 34.

None of the promised Neo-Nazis or skinheads were spotted in the tiny crowd and though those who were involved in organizing the event had histories of clear bigotry most of those who were there resembled something closer to members of the Tea-Party as opposed to members of 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 became evil under Obama but Trump somehow is using it for good again or if it was always bad.  

Speakers at the event included Tye Smith a black Trump supporter who is 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. [1]

Others who took charge of speaking during the rally includes 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 was when the first skirmish occurred.

Police began to mobilize and press was 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 they 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, many of the attendees at the rally were forced to simply walk home in shame.

Despite having three chapters and dozens of members in the state of Philadelphia I was told by rally security that only two members of the Proud Boys actually showed up.

What happened to scare away the dozens if not hundreds of far-Right members who planned to march besides the Liberty Bell leaving only the few moderate conservatives left to actually attend?

The answer of course is Gritty. More than a sports mascot or a grotesque assemblage or fur and felt, Gritty is someone that resides within us all. Gritty is an idea. Gritty is a drive within the people of Philadelphia that drove over 1,000 of them to spend their day making signs and preparing to march against injustice.

Perhaps it was the Gritty inside a twitter user who promised to ID anyone that showed up to the rally. Which scared them away. Perhaps it was the Gritty inside Reddit users who hinted that the Socialist Rifle Club would be armed and ready to defend themselves. That made them stay home. It could have even been the Gritty inside the people who posted flyers that identified likely rally attendees and warned citizens to be on the lookout for them. Perhaps it was the Gritty inside every single one of the people who showed up at the Pushback rally, and the Gritty that made them let the world know they would be coming that made the Proud Boys and the Nazis realize this isn’t a game and that the people of Philadelphia won’t let them be welcomed into their city.

All that matters now though is the few who came to the rally ran home hiding behind the police and regretting having come to it in the first place. While members of the resistance made history as Gritty today became the face of the revolution.


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