Fists fly after pro-Trump/impeachment rallies; some detained

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A city-permitted “Trump impeachment rally” and a permitted pro-Trump counter-march in Center City on Sunday morning ended with several protesters detained by city police after a scuffle outside a bar.

The impeachment demonstration was part of a nationwide movement in several cities, including New York and Los Angeles – calling on Republicans in Congress to join Democrats in voting to oust the nation’s top elected official. In Philadelphia, the effort drew 150 impeachment supporters, scores of police officers, and a group of 50 pro-Trump counter-demonstrators to mostly peaceful rallies and marches along separate routes.

But police said the pro-Trump march was also stalked by a separate group of up to 40 black-garbed anti-Trump protesters who repeatedly sought to confront the Trump supporters. They were mostly headed off by the large contingent of police officers, who lined the march routes and guarded rally sites on foot, in cars, on bicycles, and in a helicopter. The officers were backed by National Park Service , Homeland Security, SEPTA officers and Philadelphia County Sheriff’s deputies.

After the protest rallies broke up at noon, pro-Trump demonstration organizer Zachary Rehl said he and 10 fellow marchers – some carrying pro-Trump banners and signs – headed south from Logan Circle “to get a beer” at Tir na nOg, an Irish-themed bar on 16th St. south of the Parkway. Outside the bar, said Rehl, a Marine Corps veteran and Temple student, “the Antifa found us,” with a group of “six or seven” black-clad protesters shouting insults at the Trump supporters.

Pro-Trump demonstrator Ellsworth George later posed at the bar with a captured Antifa flag, a satiny shining black, red and white banner on which is written, in German, “Antifascist Action”

“Antifa” is a term adopted by militant “anti-fascist” protesters who have sought to confront Trump supporters, operating independently of city-sanctioned protests

According to Rehl, the antifas included two women and four or five men.

“Three of them punched us,” and were detained by police, along with a pro-Trump protester who Rehl said had been punched.  Police did not immediately respond to questions on whether any of those detained would be charged. After the police broke up the scuffle, the Trump supporters posted videos of the police pinning protesters to the sidewalk on their Facebook site, Sports Beer & Politics, then went into the bar and had their beers, Rehl said.

Both sides of the permitted protests attracted fewer people than earlier rallies in March and January. “Our side won, so we don’t need to come out as much,” explained pro-Trump marcher Colin Brown.

The strong police presence in Center City briefly trapped tourists, including Joe Maduro of Freeland, Pa., at their hotels until marchers passed. It’s the second time this year demonstrations have kept him from driving out of the city on schedule, Maduro said, smiling and shaking his head. He said his wife and daughter took the opportunity to go shopping.

While protests have not toppled the president, protesters targeting the pro-Trump camp caused a visible rise in energy among the band of mostly youthful Trump supporters each time they appeared. The liberals in the permitted protest group also claimed to gain from the hot day’s walk. Trevor Muth, one of several members of a central Montgomery County-based chapter of Indivisible who attended the Impeach rally in blue T-shirts, said his group regularly attends protests. He said they have been recruiting candidates for state and local offices who support Planned Parenthood, gun control, and other causes he said are threatened by Trump positions.

Beth Goldstein, a math teacher and South Philadelphia resident, said she joined the Impeach protest to advocate for “a more tolerant, more open, more egalitarian society” than she sees developing under Trump. Anthony Novotny, who said he is a member of the Haverford Township Democratic committee, waved a rainbow flag and said Trump “against the Constitution.”

Kyohn Page and James Small, Philadelphia natives and recent Bloomsburg University graduates, joined the Impeach rally “to show the youth we can be politically active,” Small said.

“We saw it on Facebook,” said Olivia Martinez, a rising freshman at Rutgers University, who came with friends who shared her concerns over reports of Trump’s ties to Russia and his family business interests.

Barbara Johnson, a retired Philadelphia teacher in a Mennonite Relief T-shirt, said she joined the impeachment march to support a campaign to expand Medicaid to cover all Americans. Her friend Diane Mitrione, a pharma company consultant, said she wanted to bring attention to what she said were Trump’s violations of the Constitutional ban on personal “emoluments” to elected officials who enrich themselves through office, to Trump’s “collusion” with the Russian government, and his “obstruction of justice” in law enforcement reviews of his administration’s conduct. Mitrione said she was active in her South Jersey chapter of Indivisible.

Kathleen Moyer of Philadelphia said she joined the Impeach rally after reading accounts that concerned her over Trump’s dedication to democracy. “He seems really unhinged,” said her brother Patrick, who said Trump owes his election victory to the way many Americans are “fed up with politics and lies.” But he’s  concerned Trump won’t improve matters. He’s hoping other Republicans will get disgusted and say “This is enough.”

“Trump is so bad for this country,” said Beth Mulhern, a Northeast Philadelphia accountant. “I’m concerned about civil liberties. He’s out for profit and privatization” of public services, she said.

Both sides used the specter of conflict to rally loyalists on social media.  As in previous marches and counter-marches, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Melvin Singleton said there were activists who refused to join permitted groups, and his force was alert, deployed and rolling aside marchers to prevent confrontations.

As the pro-Trump group prepared to march down Walnut St. and up to Logan Circle along the city-approved march route, a group of up to 40 black-garbed anti-Trump protesters gathered to oppose them but were warned off by officers, who continued to shadow them as they moved along the Walnut Street parade route.

Some walked over to Reading Terminal, took off their black garb, and faded into the civilian crowd, according to police who were following them.

Liberals calling for Trump’s ouster also claimed to face possible attack. “The police are extremely prepared, mostly because of the Proud Boys,” said Impeach Trump rally organizer David Love of Philadelphia. He described Proud Boys as a pro-Trump group that operated independently of city-permitted protesters.

“I never heard of Proud Boys,” said pro-Trump organizer Rehl as he welcomed demonstrators at the entrance to the Irish Famine memorial above I-95 at 9:30 a.m.

“I’m a Proud Boy,” said pro-Trump marcher Justin Brown. “It’s a loose organization in its infancy. It’s right-wing, and anti-left, but it has nothing to do with white supremacy. It’s guys having fun.” He said he’d been part of a Proud Boys rally in Washington recently to support Trump after U.S. Rep.Steve Scalise, R-Va., was shot by an angry liberal activist.

In case of anti-Trump violence Sunday, Trump supporter Dakota Lutz, a York County factory worker, pointed to his hip, where he’d packed a camouflage bag that held a medical kit. He didn’t need it, though the muggy summer day had activists reaching for water bottles and sodas — purchased outside the city where Philadelphia’s sweet-drinks tax doesn’t apply, two activists noted proudly.

Some of the attendees used the gathering to promote political events and ideas. Vashti Barney, who works in retail and is writing a novel, dressed in green paint and a halter top and was joined at the Impeach rally by several green-faced friends  wearing plastic leaves, sarcastically costuming themselves as “Swamp People” and introducing themselves as “the Reptilian wing of the Republican Party,”  in reference to Trump’s promise to “Drain the Swamp” of politics as usual in Washington. Bandy and her friends say Trump is making “the swamp” worse by easing environmental regulation to favor large corporations and industrial polluters.

“A lot of people on both sides voted for Bernie,” said Colin Brown of Philadelphia, who joined the pro-Trump rally. He said Trump has had a tough time moving his agenda in Washington because of resistance by civil servants and “the media.”

Howard Caplan, a Northeast Philadelphia resident who held up a large pro-Trump sign at the Impeach rally, said he “saw no evidence of any collusion with Russia” but was very concerned that Democrats were shielding child molesters. He said he didn’t trust news media and got most of his information “on social media.”

“I feel sorry for this man,” said Impeach organizer David Love, pointing to Caplan, “but I’m not worried about him. He is standing on the wrong side of history.”

In the pro-Trump camp, an Asian-American who called himself Pill Eater — he uses the term on social media but declined to confirm his legal name — was given time on the agenda to talk about “Asian-Arianism, an ideology brand that I made up” to “promote a balance” among technologically-savvy groups. “The Trump movement attracts people who are tired of the politically correct climate,” he said, adding that this makes it “more entertaining” than the anti-Trump camp.]

Just before 11 a.m. the Impeach group stepped off down Market Street, led by police, toward City Hall for their ending rally in the plaza outside the Municipal Services Building. They chanted: “We need a leader/Not a creepy Tweeter.” “No ban, no wall/ The Trump machine has got to fall.” “From Palestine to Mexico/ Border walls have got to go.”

The Trump supporters marched to their own ending protest under the trees in a corner of Logan Circle as kids played around the fountains nearby. “I voted for Bernie,” said Francis Langer, one of the few people of color in the pro-Trump camp, where men outnumbered women by more than 10 to 1 (the Impeach group was mixed). He said he was turned off by the “violence” and intolerance of some liberals’ rhetoric after Trump’s election.

A lone pro-Trump marcher who declined to give his name wore a Confederate flag. He was outnumbered by several carrying green flags marked with crosses, like the flags of the Nordic countries of northern Europe, superimposed with four letter Ks facing outward in a circle, and a circle of hearts.

Jeff Thomas, the Ursinus College graduate (he majored in theater) who brought the flags, said they stand for “Kekistan,” a made-up satirical belief system rooted in gamer culture that is shared like a meme by younger Trump supporters. Thomas led a “Kekistan prayer” to end the pro-Trump rally: “Thy Trump done come, Thy will be done… Forgive us our baitings, as we forgive those who bait against us.”

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