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June 30, 2023

Protestors greet Moms for Liberty with banned book giveaways and dance parties

Groups including ACT UP and Defense of Democracy will gather outside the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, where M4L is holding its national summit, all weekend

Protests LGBTQ
Moms for Liberty protests Provided image/Kim Kelly

A protestor holds a sign outside the Museum of the American Revolution, which hosted the welcome reception for the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit on Thursday night.

Moms for Liberty arrived Thursday for its four-day Joyful Warriors summit in Philadelphia amid demonstrations from activists who say they will protest the group all weekend long.

Moms for Liberty, a national organization with at least 27 chapters in Pennsylvania, claims to be a parental rights group advocating for parents to have greater input in their children's education. But those who track extremism and hate groups dispute that label. The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes Moms for Liberty as an extremist anti-government group, while the Anti-Defamation League has raised alarm over its members' associations with hate groups and promotion of homophobic conspiracy theories tied to anti-LGBTQ harassment and violence. Since its founding in 2021, Moms for Liberty has protested mask mandates in schools and pushed to remove books or curriculum centered on LGBTQ identity, race and racism.

MORE: Moms for Liberty event still set for Museum of the American Revolution despite outcry from staff, historians

The Joyful Warriors summit has consequently sparked massive outcry among members of the Philadelphia LGBTQ community, historians, educators, local politicians and liberal and leftist activists. One of the first demonstrations was organized by the Campaign for Our Shared Future, a nonprofit that supports inclusive education. As summit attendees checked in at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown on Thursday afternoon, organizers set up tables of children's books like "And Tango Makes Three," a story about two male penguins and their daughter Tango, which have been challenged or banned by groups like Moms for Liberty. Passersby were encouraged to take the titles home as part of a banned book giveaway.

The Philadelphia chapters of ACT UP, the longtime grassroots group committed to ending the AIDS crisis, and the Young Communist League led the first of three planned protests later that evening in front of the Museum of the American Revolution, which hosted a widely criticized welcome reception for Moms for Liberty from 6 to 8 p.m. Billed as a dance party with Rise Choir and DJ Delish, the protest also included members of activist groups like Defense of Democracy and museum staffers who criticized the event. As summit attendees entered and exited the museum, where police officers had been posted since Thursday morning, protestors booed them and held signs reading "Moms for Liberty members don't season their food" and "I'm actively rooting for the bed bugs," referencing negative Yelp reviews of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

The protests have since moved to the Marriott, where the rest of the summit will take place through Sunday, July 2. ACT UP has four DJs scheduled for two-hour blocks from 1 to 9 p.m. on Friday, following a less structured "punk show (probably? or music!)" at 11 a.m. and an 8:30 a.m. missive to "drown out" Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who spoke at the summit's breakfast general session with his wife, Casey DeSantis.

Indivisible Philadelphia also kicked off a rally at the Free Library's Parkway Central location at 1901 Vine St. to protest "the conservative takeover of suburban school boards and their efforts to ban books." 

ACT UP and the Young Communist League have promised to hold a dance party protest with entertainment from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday as well, along with a demonstration from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. A "fabulous families for freedom rally" organized by the Philly Children's Movement and Philly Childcare Collective is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at 12th and Filbert streets, outside the Marriott.

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