For over a decade, neo-Nazi groups have made the Tacony section of Philadelphia home, but after the Klan tried to hold a rally there two months ago, folks decided they needed to come out to say they are not welcome.
One People’s Project
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Two months after a Klan group attempted to rally in the Tacony section, a group of local antifacists went back to the scene of that rally to demonstrate against the years-long presence of a neo-Nazi group in the multicultural neighborhood, as well as a Klansman revealed to have been living there as well.
Antifa Philadelphia organized a rally to draw attention to Keystone State “Skinheads” (KSS), a neo-Nazi organization that in recent years has been attempting to revamp their image from a violent and criminal gang to a mainstream community organization called Keystone United, and William Walters, the Grand Dragon of the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire who was thrown out of the Tacony Town Watch and sparked a June 21 Klan rally that although unannounced brought out antifa and members of the community to oppose them, and later to the home two blocks away of Bryan and Patricia Vanagatis, which for years served as the meeting place and headquarters for KSS.
According to Tacony Town Watch head Joe Nicoletti, Walters started a Klan Town Watch in the neighborhood, but police cannot do anything about it.
“Antifa Philadelphia thinks enough is enough,” the group stated on the call for people to attend and support the rally, stating further that, “A better world is possible, but not if we have to be dealing with these assholes for the rest of our lives.”
The rally was held at the Tacony Public Library, which is located on Torresdale Ave., the same street where William Walters resides, and the location of the Klan rally two months before. As antifa approached the steps, several members of KSS and their associates were already there, including Pittston, PA Republican Committeeman and KSS co-founder Steve Smith, another co-founder, Joseph Hoesch, of Abington, Patrick Rogers of Williamsport, Ron Sheehy of the Advanced White Society, Pat Fahy, a onetime member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Vinlander Social Club (VSC), and Anthony James (AJ) Olsen, the head of KSS’s Philadelphia chapter. After a verbal exchange, police moved the KSS associates from the steps and allowed antifa to hold the demonstration. The KSS associates then moved across the street as a crowd of community residents gathered.
At first, the crowd, many of whom were Black, Hispanic and biracial, was not sure of the nature of the rally and who the opposing groups were. Although both sides were small in numbers and evenly matched, once it was learned that those standing at the library were there opposing white supremacists, many from the community joined them on their side of the street.
The only residents that joined KSS and their associates were some family members of Vincent and Nunzio Pellegrino, angry about reports of both their associations with the hate group and of Vincent’s May 20 death when he crashed a vehicle into a wall after reportedly sexually assaulting a woman inside. The family maintains Vincent’s innocence however, and also noted that contrary to some reports that the vehicle was stolen, it actually belonged to another brother who came to the rally to talk with antifa. The family rejected the hate politics of KSS, however and after it was encouraged that they leave the rally to avoid being associated with them, many of them in fact did. Nunzio Pellegrino, who two weeks ago, saw antifa flyering the neighborhood and told them he left KSS, did not attend the rally.
The departure of the Pellegrino family left the KSS associates with the number that they were first seen with but just as antifa were ending the rally and marching back to their vehicles, they were joined by three more KSS members, Harrisburg chapter head Robert Gaus, who has to appear in court next month for his third DUI arrest, Joseph Phy, who in 2009 served house arrest for an asault which involved biting his victim’s ear, and Bryan Vanagatis, who two weeks ago along with his wife Patricia and their son moved away from their longtime home in Philadelphia to Highshire, PA a suburb of Harrisburg. The KSS associates marched on the other side shouting that antifa had no connection or claim to the community while they did. Antifa responded with an ironic point: Only Phy and Olsen lived in the area, while the other KSS associates were coming from locations as far as two hours away. “Our crowd was almost entirely Philadelphia residents, with the majority being from Tacony,” a Statement on the event page read. “And not only Philly residents, but ones willing to stand out in the pouring rain surrounded be police while Neo-Nazis snarled and screamed at them. And give it back to them.”
Other then verbal sparring, the rally remained peaceful and there were no arrests.