Fists fly outside bar, three charged after pro-Trump/impeach Trump rallies

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Philadelphia Police arrested three anti-Trump demonstrators Sunday afternoon when fisticuffs erupted outside a bar after two rival city-permitted groups – a 150-person “Impeach Trump” and a 50-person pro-Trump counter-march – completed their routes peacefully.

Officers said “a group of pro-POTUS persons” trying to enter the bar at 16th and Cuthbert Streets was confronted by “a group of anti-POTUS persons and an altercation ensued.” A pro-Trump demonstrator and a police officer were assaulted, according to police spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little.

Two anti-Trump demonstrators were charged with assaulting the pro-Trump marcher in front of numerous police officers. The man suffered a minor mouth injury, according to police spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little. A third anti-Trump demonstrator was charged with assaulting the police officer and a fourth person was issued a citation, she said.

The pro-Trump march was stalked by a separate group of up to 40 black-garbed anti-Trump protesters who repeatedly sought to confront the Trump supporters, police said.

A large contingent of Philadelphia police officers lined the march routes and guarded rally sites on foot, in cars, on bicycles, and in a helicopter. The officers were backed by U.S. Park Service, Homeland Security, SEPTA officers and Philadelphia County Sheriff’s deputies.

The local impeachment demonstration, along with similar events in New York, Los Angeles and other cities, was called to encourage Republicans in Congress to join Democrats in voting to oust the nation’s top elected official.

After the rallies, 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 at 16th St. south of Arch.

Rehl, a Marine Corps veteran and Temple student, “the Antifa found us,” outside the bar and a group of “six or seven” black-clad protesters started shouting insults at the Trump supporters. “Antifa” is a term adopted by militant “anti-fascist” protesters who in the U.S. seek to confront Trump supporters, operating independently of legally permitted 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 hit.

Two protesters were charged with assaulting a demonstrator in the presence of police, and one with assaulting a police officer, said Little.

After police broke up the scuffle, the Trump supporters posted videos of police pinning protesters to the sidewalk on their Facebook site, Sports Beer & Politics, then went into the bar and had their beers, Rehl said.

Pro-Trump demonstrator Ellsworth George Lewis III later posed at the bar with a captured Antifa flag, a satiny black, red and white banner bearing the German-language slogan, “Antifascist Action”

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,” said 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 vehicles trailing the marchers passed and streets reopened. 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.

The protesters targeting the pro-Trump camp caused a visible rise in energy among the band of mostly youthful Trump supporters each time they appeared and the police pushed them aside. 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.

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 march 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 rightist group that backs Trump.

“I never heard of Proud Boys,” said pro-Trump organizer Rehl as he welcomed demonstrators to the march kick-off cite, 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 “free-speech” rally in Washington recently 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 Trump supporters handing out Pepsis to marchers and spectators — purchased outside the city where Philadelphia’s sweet-drinks tax doesn’t apply, two activists noted proudly.

A lone pro-Trump marcher who wore a Confederate flag declined to give his name. 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 social-media 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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