Philadelphians, take a bow

Protesters stand in front of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
Protesters at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. (Photo by Jason Villemez)

Moms for Liberty — hereafter known to me as “The Mothers” — must’ve thought they picked a city that was ready for their proselytizing. But when they arrived in Philadelphia, they found themselves in what is probably their image of hell. 

Philadelphians, take a bow. You showed a hate group how you feel about bringing their harmful messaging into our city. I have never been more proud to be a Philadelphian! What you did sends both a signal to The Mothers and to other hotels and cities they might travel to in the future. 

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities with thriving LGBTQ+ communities, take note. This is how a united community, with the freedom to be creative with their outrage, works. Here’s a glimpse of The Mothers’ time in Philly.

Several months ago, PGN’s Gary L. Day wrote the first story on the group’s plan to host their “Joyful Warriors” convention in the City of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection. We published that their official hotel would be the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Outraged LGBTQ+ staffers of the Museum of the American Revolution then alerted PGN that the museum was rented out for The Mothers’ official opening reception. 

Several groups — including ACT UP Philadelphia, Pennsylvania STOP Moms for Liberty, Red Wine & Blue and Defense of Democracy — began to organize demonstrations at both the hotel and museum, making sure that Philadelphians knew what was going to transpire in our beloved city. Many groups referred to The Mothers as a hate group, and The Mothers denied that. Then, civil-rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center officially designated them as a hate group on a list that includes Proud Boys, skinheads and Nazis, on June 4.  

At the same time, the Free Library of Philadelphia stood tall in the face of The Mothers, whose main mission is to ban books and drag queens. The library announced a full range of Pride Month events, including displays, LGBTQ+ youth programs and Drag Queen storytime events. They even enlisted me to do a speaking gig on the myths of Stonewall, counteracting The Mothers’ opening-night reception. The Mothers stated that they would picket some of those programs. Mothers protesting and keeping kids from reading? They must be hypocritical and bad parents.  

Throughout the protests — many of which were MC’d by Sam Rise — the Philadelphia Police were so blown away by the organized demonstrations outside of the hotel and museum that they lined the entire block with a wall of police. I’m sure those Mothers felt frightened as they navigated their way in and out, as they should be since they wanted to frighten our community. We turned the tables on them.

During The Mothers’ time in Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney denounced them on behalf of the City of Philadelphia.

“I want to be very clear that as a welcoming and inclusive City, we find this group’s beliefs and values problematic,” Kenney said in a statement. “We oppose this group’s policy goals, which include attempts to disregard history, ban books, and silence conversations about race, gender and sexuality. We believe these policies are harmful to youth and I am especially troubled when these policies target classrooms, libraries and any space where children deserve to feel safe, seen and supported at all times.”

When they awoke from the safety of their hotel room, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown guests found a hanger on their door with messages from Agenda PAC, a political action committee that aims to hold anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and electoral groups accountable. These hangers included messages such as “AGENDA PAC Welcomes you to the Gayborhood! HATE HAS NO PLACE IN PHILLY. GET MOMS FOR LIBERTY OUT OF OUR CITY!” and “PLEASE DISTURB. FASCISM IN PROGRESS. Did you know a designated hate group is staying at this hotel?” The hangers also included QR codes where guests could link up to information about The Mothers.

The City of Philadelphia also took my favorite action the night before The Mothers came into town: They placed trans flags on every single pole around the complete block of the Marriott. Were The Mothers hostages to the trans community? I certainly hope so, since their mission is to imprison our trans and drag community. Looking at the steel barricades surrounding their hotel, it’s clear we imprisoned them.