READING, PA – The plan was to keep organizing for a rally against Syrian refugees under the radar and away from the prying eyes of those who may come out to oppose the rally. Unfortunately for the organizers, that plan fell apart and a paltry number of persons associated with militia groups were met by over 100 counter-demonstrators as they stood outside the Berks County Courthouse on Saturday.
According to the Reading Eagle, the anti-refugee demonstrators, calling themselves America First and Concerned Pennsylvanians for Constitutional Liberty were met by a large contingent of Antifa and local persons of color representing Antifa from around the state as well as the Reading-based Make the Road Pennsylvania. The rally was promoted via a secret Facebook event page, but information still managed to get to the opposing groups, who played music for about an hour and shouted out chants such as “Islam is not your enemy” and “Say it loud. Say it clear.
Refugees are welcome here!”
Republican committeeman and America First member John Rentschler told the Reading Eagle the group is committed to keeping the United States safe, while Dan Gray, also of America First cited his Jewish faith and his family’s own history in the Holocaust to bolster his point. “A true refugee is someone who is in fear of people because of his belief,” he said. “We must insist that refugees are vetted.”
Ironically, the reason why the militia groups particularly in Pennsylvania were such a concern to those opposing them was because of their well-documented association with local neo-Nazi groups over the past two decades. Rentschler and Gray were first noticed when they spoke at an anti-refugee rally at the Pennsylvania State House in Harrisburg last November, which was attended by the neo-Nazi Keystone State “Skinheads” (KSS). It was among the many things that fueled opposition to their subsequent rally
outside a church supporting the refugees that brought out 200 counter demonstrators to oppose the 40 anti-refugee protesters. There were no persons that were identified with neo-Nazi groups at the Reading or Lancaster rallies, however, and according to antifa that spoke with One People’s Project, they were told by the anti-refugee organizers that they had asked KSS not to participate because of the public scrutiny.
Dan Gray later expressed his displeasure over the lack of numbers for his side in a Facebook post saying that while he called Antifa “cowards” for wearing masks, he said he still respected them for their heart:
“Today, as usual, some couldn’t come, for legitimate reasons,” he wrote. “Health, family, jobs, transportation, will always stop some from time to time. But MORE stayed home because they don’t care enough to FIGHT. More than a few failed out of FEAR. And so we were outnumbered, again.
“The other side showed up, he continued. “The ones you jeer at here on Social Media. The ones you belittle, berate, and make bold boastful battle with. THEY showed up. The avowed illegals came, with drums and guitar, Risking deportation, even in a Sanctuary City, they came.
Singing Spanish songs, chanting, drowning us out. And marched away satisfied..”