The stage was set. A rainy morning broke through to a sunny brisk afternoon, but Boathouse Row along Kelly Drive was still nearly deserted. A few die-hard joggers and bikers raced by. Philly PD was there; they even brought two swat vans and a paddy wagon. You know we were there. Around 30 Anti-Fascists from Philly and the immediate surrounding area braved the weather and cops to let Keystone United, also known as the Keystone State “Skinheads,” know that they are not welcome in Philadelphia. We ate soup provided by Food Not Bombs – Affinity (thanks again), chatted, and waited.
For most of the nearly 10 years, it was a similar scene. But this time, there was something missing. Everyone there was attractive. No one was yelling. There was no idiotic collection of flags from European Countries waving in the wind. Slowly, it dawned on us: they weren’t coming.
Leif Erikson Day was a point of pride for Philly KSS for several years. It was the one time a year when they would openly call for an event in Philadelphia. They would bring allies from as far away as Texas, Indiana and the Pacific Northwest. The first time anyone protested it, in 2008, it was just a handful of Anti-Racists against the combined forces of KSS, The Vinlanders Social Club, Volksfront, and several other smaller Neo-Nazi crews. The event being used to bring together such distant (and previously hostile) organizations, combined with the political activism KSS was engaging in all over the Philly metro area, was a threat that Anti-Fascists could no longer ignore.
Opposition to Leif Erikson Day grew from there, culminating in 2013 when KSS, now operating under the banner of Blood and Honour, was met with hundreds of protestors from around the city and region. They were unable to hold their march down lemon hill for the first time, and retreated back to their cars after only a few minutes of being shouted down and laughed at by the statue.
In 2014 KSS did not show up until weeks after the holiday, holding a quick photo op and running off. In 2015 KSS announced they would be in the Park at Noon Leif Erikson Day weekend, but when Anti-Fascists mobilized to meet them they instead hid until they could hold their rally under cover of darkness that night. It seemed like Leif Erikson Day might be a thing of the past, replaced with “Leif Erikson Night,” or “Celebration 2 weeks after Leif Erikson Day.”
A lot can change in a year. Donald Trump’s presidency has electrified the racists and nationalists; KSS are both. Furthermore, after years of successfully embarrassing and exposing KSS members living all over the city and state, KSS has adopted an almost flattering obsession with us. For every KSS social media account, there are three “Anti-Antifa” sites or accounts being operated by members of KSS. Their Tumblr and Twitter are filled with images like this:
Following the melee in Sacramento when members of the Golden State Skinheads stabbed several Anti-Racists while fleeing after being routed on their way to a planned rally at the Capitol building, KSS posted accolades for the “Aryan Warriors” who stood up to “the red scum.” Surely, this year, when Antifa announced so publicly their intentions to be in Fairmount Park for Leif Erikson Day, naming the date and time, KSS would be there to show their “Anti-Antifa” chops first hand, no?
Apparently not. Maybe we don’t understand this whole “Anti-Antifa” dynamic. Like, we’re Antifa. When Fascists are holding demonstrations in our town, we are there. What exactly do these “Anti-Antifa warriors” do, other than print t-shirts and stickers? You name a time and place, we show up, you hide until the middle of the night. We name a time and place, we show up, you still don’t come through. Come to think of it, no one can really remember seeing yall on the streets in Philly in like 2 years.
We have no doubt that KSS has or will hold some sort of “Leif Erikson Day Celebration.” It might have been in the middle of the night again. It might have been held somewhere outside of Philly. It might have just been printing T-Shirts and selling them on their Tumblr.
Despite all this, it was important for Anti-Fascists to be in the park to meet and oppose KSS, especially right now, with a resurgent right organizing all over the country. We’d like to thank everyone that came out and stood in the rain with us to make sure that Philly remains an Anti-Fascist city.
Solidarity, Liberty and Equality,