After weeks of promoting their event on social media, the Proud Boys in Philadelphia are no shows to their own rally while hundreds of anti-racists and antifascists mobilize against them.
PHILADELPHIA – No one who came out to Clark Park Saturday could be sure that the neo-fascist Proud Boys would actually come out for the rally they announced just a few weeks ago. The group has never shown a large degree of strength or support in the city, and they were attempting to hold an event in a park that many of those they say they hate regularly frequent. Indeed, a flyer announcing one group’s counter-protest against them indicated what they will do either if they came or if they did not.
In the end there was no Proud Boy rally, and the 500 residents of West Philadelphia who came out took the opportunity to enjoy each others’ company. This neighborhood is regarded as one of the most progressive, racially diverse neighborhoods in the city.
In addition, another rally organized by a group calling itself Italian American Patriots that was to be held at Marconi Park in South Philadelphia at the site of the Christopher Columbus statue two hours before the Clark Park rally was called off on Friday, organizers saying there was no need to hold the rally since everything regarding the fate of the statue is held up in court.
Originally, the Proud Boys announced a rally for Marconi Park next Saturday to coincide with the rally the group was holding in Portland, but many in the Philadelphia chapter may reportedly travel to Portland for that rally, changing plans. In fact they attempted to make their absence look like a planned thing all along saying that they never intended to rally at the park but wanted to be there to dox everyone that showed up. This account was played up on right-wing websites and other media outlets, particularly in an a Gateway Pundit article written by Cassandra Fairbanks, a longtime associate in “alt-right” circles. A post on the Philadelphia Proud Boys Telegram account specifically noted otherwise. however. “Due to conflicts with the Portland Rally the event for the 26th has been moved to the 19th,” the post notes. “We need all available patriots to show up for the rally on the 19th, as we march into the Belly of the Beast to demand an end to them terrorizing our communities.”
Proud Boy supporters, including one on another telegram account, expressed their anger over the possibility that if this was indeed an attempt to prank people to come out to the park to oppose them, such a move put them at risk in what was expected to be a volatile situation for them. One supporter said he even went to the rally and left after not seeing any Proud Boys present. Indeed, two individuals in the crowd were identified as Proud Boy associates, and they quickly left.
In January 2019, the New Jersey European Heritage Association announced a rally in Princeton, NJ and when they failed to show, they too attempted to explain away their no-show by saying it was a prank of some sort.
Instead of confronting hatemongers, those who came out to the park heard speeches from community leaders and local politicians. “Clark Park remains a place where folks from all walks of life come to recreate and to convene and to just be,” City Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, who represents the neighborhood, said to the crowd in a speech that addressed racial injustice. “If these Boys come here today, they’re going to go home to their miserable lives, but we will still have work to do.” Some attendees made the event a jovial one, bringing games and musical instruments, while many came out to remember those innocent Black men and women that were murdered by police across the country, with one group led by the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan of the Whomsoever Metropolitan Church presenting and installation called the “Last Word of the Unarmed.” where seven signs bearing the last words of Eric Garner, George Floyd and Elijah McClain. Breonna Taylor’s sign was marked with just quotation marks, noting how she might not have been able to speak before being shot and killed by police. Others simply appreciated the chance to meet people and forge relationships.
There were a few skirmishes, such as one person some said had a gun that was chased out of the park, and another with a right wing YouTuber from California named James Klug who was there carrying a sign declaring Donald Trump to not be a racist which prompted rally attendees to confront him snatch his sign and eventually eject him from the park to a nearby corner where he remained for the rest of the rally. He came with Lisa Reynolds-Barbounis who ran video for him and was also a part of the scuffle that ensued with the crowd. Reynolds-Barbounis was until August 2019, the Director of Communications for the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum (MEF), the Islamophobic organization founded by Daniel Pipes that promotes the idea that Muslims are a threat to Western civilization and is a major source of Islamophobic propaganda and false information about Muslims. In December, the MEF filed a lawsuit that is reportedly still pending against Reynolds-Barbounis alleging breach of contract, computer fraud and abuse charging further that she forwarded their proprietary information, trade secrets, donor lists and business relationships to an email account not associated with the organization.
Reynolds-Barbounis was working with the MEF when they worked to bring Steven Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson” of the Islamophobic and neo-Fascist English Defence League (EDL), to the US to speak with congressional leaders. Similar to the Proud Boys, many leaders of the EDL has had associations with neo-Nazis including Yaxley-Lennon himself who was a member of British National Party. Reynolds-Barbounis has a link in her Twitter description to a Tommy Robinson-related website.
In addition to the Portland rally, the Proud Boys say they will rally in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 3