Arrests made at Moms for Liberty counter protests

Protesters hold hands in a street intersection.
Protesters gathered to protest against anti-LGBTQ+ group Moms for Liberty, which held its national summit in Philadelphia June 29-July 2. (Photo by Nico Wisler)

On July 2, the final morning of protests against the extremist, anti-government group Moms for Liberty, the Philadelphia Police Department arrested five activists for blocking traffic at 12th and Filbert streets. Those arrested were part of a civil disobedience action organized by “an autonomous group of activists in solidarity,” according to a press release from ACT UP Philadelphia. 

​​“There is no debate or discussion for anyone whose ideology is based in the elimination of trans people and people of color,” a spokesperson for ACT UP said in the release. “All types of Philadelphians have shown up over the past week in all types of ways to make it clear that we will not allow Moms 4 Liberty to push their agenda in our city. We are united in love and anger and ACT UP Philadelphia wholeheartedly supports the actions of people putting their bodies on the line to stand against fascism today, tomorrow and always.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a police officer also arrested a trans woman dancing around waving a trans flag outside of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, where the summit was being held. Police had threatened to arrest anyone blocking traffic, and one arrest was reported at the June 29 protest at the Museum of the American Revolution, where Moms for Liberty held an event.

Karen Svoboda, CEO of Defense of Democracy, spoke at a press conference opposing Moms for Liberty over the weekend. Although she did not attend the July 2 protest, where the arrests were made, she expressed concern to PGN about police arresting peaceful protesters.

“As I see our country moving closer and closer to a fascist state, and drilling down on people who resist or want to make a statement in a non-violent, peaceful way, it is really tough to see that,” Svoboda said. “In particular in Philadelphia, where it is kind of the cradle of freedom, to have an individual be arrested who was protesting legally, within their rights to do so, is something that can really chill resistance on a lot of levels. And that’s why there are laws that allow us to peacefully protest.” 

Moms for Liberty is composed of local chapters of parents from around the country. Their controversial tactics include fighting to ban books with LGBTQ+ and racial content from school libraries, advocating for anti-LGBTQ+ policies in schools, and pushing for censorship of classroom instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity and critical race theory. One summit breakout session at the group’s “Joyful Warriors” national summit at the Marriott this weekend focused on the idea of “sex education is sex indoctrination.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from Karen Svoboda.