On the morning of March 25th, a black bloc of about 100 people gathered outside independence hall before a crowd of police, who were protecting about 70 Make America Great Again attendees behind a series of barricades. The bloc started off chanting “No Trump, no KKK no fascist USA!”, “No borders, no nations, stop deportations!”, and “Whose city? Our city!” standing off with the cops in front of the entrance to the park. We knew that stepping onto the mall was federal property and carried stiffer penalties, so we took the streets and held them, challenging the fascists to leave their police protection and meet us head on. Unsurprisingly, they stayed put behind their wall of police. We circled Independence mall repeatedly accompanied by air horns, sirens, smoke bombs and flares.
As we chanted, smoke poured out around us, obscuring the vision of the cops and slowing them down. It also created a powerful visual presence to intimidate the MAGA protesters. Several American flags were burned and proudly displayed as we circled the park, further inspiring the bloc. It was also great to see the level of support and enthusiasm from both protesters outside the bloc and people who came to observe the event; we heard lots of cheers and encouragement and many people were happy to see us taking direct action against the reactionary forces of the far right. We feel this support might be part of a larger, positive trend in which militant direct action is becoming more normalized and accepted by the general public.
The bloc did a good job sticking together and not backing down as cops tried to kettle us and keep us from moving multiple times. However, observers noted that police appeared to maintain a high level of control over the demonstration. We ran through attempted police lines and around several strategically placed emergency vehicles without backing down. The smoke and noise, combined with our chanting, helped us make a good show of force that kept the small crowd of MAGA marchers on edge. Their march was scheduled to start at 1, but the police wouldn’t let them out of the barricaded area for fear they might be attacked (and reasonably so!). Our strategy proved partially successful, as the police were forced to cancel the MAGA march for fear for the safety of the fascists. Once the bloc confirmed that the police revoked the permit, they decided to march along the route planned for the MAGA rally. However, some determined MAGA marchers persisted along the route as well. We may have claimed victory a little early–ideally, the MAGA marchers would not have taken to the streets at all.
Two people were detained but quickly released. However, the bloc did not have a coherent response for comrades who were detained–while some members of the bloc stopped to observe the arrests and get the names of the detained people, most of the bloc continued on. The response by the bloc was seriously lacking. It’s important to work together to prevent arrests and display a unified front against police intimidation.
As the bloc arrived at the art museum, still heavily flanked by cops, they were greeted and joined by 300 of Philly’s “wheelie kids”. The wheelie kids flooded the street behind the bloc. Whether they meant to or not, their large numbers disrupted cops’ attempts to kettle the bloc, in a powerful and visually striking display. Shout out to the Wheelie Kids–a meme was created in your honor.
In addition to the bloc, Families against Fascism also gathered in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum to display Philly solidarity against the MAGA march, to gather, commiserate, share food and drinks, and to hold space for those among us who can’t risk attacks by police and armed right wingers.
There were certainly things we could do differently to make us stronger at the next demo. In particular, there needs to be a clear understanding among all in attendance about how to respond if someone is detained–the best response is definitely not wandering away. Additionally, more disciplined movement within the bloc would have potentially helped with avoiding police kettling.
However, it was encouraging to see people from a broad array of affinities and tendencies come together to form a unified and disruptive response to the MAGA march. Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday, and solidarity to all the people around the so called United States that showed up to tell MAGA marchers to fuck right off in your cities too.
It is important that we hold on to the energy and momentum we have and build from here. Fascists are still out here and they’re just as determined as we are. We want to build strong, trusting and committed networks so we can show up and shut it down every time these assholes try to take the streets.
Solidarity, no platform, hasta la Victoria!
The Hostile City Welcoming Committee