Stand back, Proud Boys. Philadelphia is stronger than you.

Passerby walks between the camera and the Proud Boys as they pose for a photo. (Courtesy of Jason Peters)

Passerby walks between the camera and the Proud Boys as they pose for a photo. (Courtesy of Jason Peters)

“Proud Boys stand back and stand by” said the President of the United States when asked to disavow white supremacy. During the first Presidential debate, Donald Trump name-checked the far-right fascist militia group, as well as our fine city of Philadelphia, where “bad things happen.”  

This city of so-called “bad things” has become accustomed to mass movements taking over the streets. Months of persistent protests following the police killing of George Floyd have mobilized tens of thousands of people to take their voices and bodies to the public realm. City residents have unified in support of the movement for Black lives, equitable labor conditions for the sanitation workers and teachers that keep our city going, and social justice in general.

Last month, the Proud Boys marched in mismatched paramilitary gear on Center City sidewalks in hopes of selling an unsuspecting public on an opposing set of political opinions. The self-styled militia waved the stars and bars alongside “Make America Great Again” flags talking about an alleged “war on masculinity.” Dressed in black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts dawning a variety of weapons, the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group paraded past brunch-goers and befuddled tourists. Most passersby when asked “Do you know who those people are?” responded “No.” Bearing handguns, bear mace, steel knuckles, whips, and sticks, the hate group chanted and interrupted bottomless mimosas at Positano Coast. 

The Proud Boys did not march like most Philadelphia protesters. Instead of taking over roads or highways, the group walked exclusively on the sidewalk, protected by hundreds of police officers. They stayed on the sidewalk as  a group of people from the feminist-led March to End Rape Culture marched down Market Street opposite to the Proud Boys. Members of the March to End Rape culture chanted “Whose Lives Matter? Black Lives Matter” at the Proud Boys who responded with sputtered “Blue Lives Matter” chants mixed with scattered insults. 

The Proud Boys landed in Center City after West Philly defeated the group’s plans to descend on Clark Park. The far-right men cancelled a Sept. 19 event at the popular park after nearly 500 Philadelphians came out to picnic with their families, sending a message of joyous opposition to the group’s hate. 

Week by week, day-by-day, Philadelphians have showed up to shine a light on the issues they actually care about. Thousands came out in full force following the death of George Floyd to support Black Lives Matter. Through the sweltering summer heat, the people of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love risked their health during a pandemic to support Queer Black Lives, they decorated signs demanding protection of sanitation workers, and protested homelessness. 

These displays of power are why the Proud Boys have already, in Philadelphia, stepped back.

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