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July 13, 2020

Philly D.A. Krasner, Proud Boys both slam police union president about party at FOP headquarters

Politics Police
McNesby Philly Proud Boys @john_mcnesby/Twitter

John McNesby, president of Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, denied knowing members of the Proud Boys attended a union afterparty following the 'Back the Blue' event with Vice President Mike Pence last week.

In a matter of a few days, police union president John McNesby has taken heat from both Phildelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and scorned the Proud Boys, prompting the far-right group to now say the FOP Lodge 5 leader had "stabb(ed) us in the back."

It all stems from Thursday's "Back the Blue" event at the FOP lodge in Northeast Philadelphia, which Vice President Mike Pence attended. It was a campaign stop for the vice president, during which he gave a speech at the union hall showing his support for law enforcement amid widespread criticism following the killing of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police

Outside the venue, competing demonstrations were held by Refuse Fascism and the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys, a "Western chauvinist" organization that has been designated a "general hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The FOP held a private party at the lodge after Pence's visit, and it was reported by the Inquirer that about 10 Proud Boys members flew their flag and mingled among police officers in the parking lot outside the union hall's bar.

McNesby, who faced criticism for the Proud Boys' appearance, released a statement on Saturday saying he was unaware of the Proud Boys members' presence.

"We have recently been informed that members of the Proud Boys were present outside FOP headquarters this week following a visit by the vice president," McNesby said. "If we were aware of their presence, we would have escorted them off our property. At no time were these individuals allowed inside of our building. Philadelphia police officers, FOP leadership and members condemn their hateful and discriminatory speech in any form."

The Philadelphia Proud Boys, who claim they are a multi-racial organization, fired back at McNesby on Twitter. They said they attended the party and spent more than $1,000 there. The group called the the FOP president's statement "repulsive."

On Monday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a frequent foe of McNesby's, released a statement sharply criticizing FOP leadership. 

"The FOP leadership failed to ask the Proud Boys to leave even after its members aggressively questioned two reporters for attempting to take their photographs, telling one that she was 'heading down a dangerous road' by staying there," Krasner said, referencing an incident with two Inquirer writers. "Police responded to the trouble by asking the Proud Boys if they were okay only to leave, allowing the Boys to try to intimidate two women journalists who were doing their jobs. The Proud Boys followed up with offensive, misogynist social media ridiculing one of the journalists." 

Krasner went on to question why McNesby has used more forceful language in the past to condemn Black Lives Matter. 

"President McNesby is not always so tongue-tied," Krasner said. "In September 2017, McNesby referred to Black Lives Matter members protesting in front of an officer's house after the fatal shooting by police of a civilian as a 'pack of rabid animals' and a 'racist hate group determined to instigate violence.'"

Contacted Monday afternoon, an FOP spokesperson said McNesby would not respond to Krasner, whom he has accused previously of having an "anti-police agenda."

The incident comes after police have faced scrutiny for their handling of counter-protests last month in Fishtown and South Philadelphia, where armed vigilante residents assembled seemingly without concern from law enforcement.  Two men have since been charged in separate assaults on a journalist and a photographer last month.  

The Philadelphia Police Department has opened multiple Internal Affairs investigations stemming from interactions with protesters during demonstrations in June. An independent review of the city's response to civil unrest will be commissioned by the Law Department. 

McNesby has grown increasingly critical of Mayor Jim Kenney for going outside the department to hire Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, instead of promoting an internal candidate. Former police commissioner Richard Ross, who replaced Charles Ramsey from within, resigned last year amid reports of sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the department. 

"The Mayor and Police leadership are more concerned with appeasing anarchist mobs descending upon our city and are less concerned about our citizens, our neighborhoods and the overall public safety of our great city," McNesby complained last month. 

In a video statement, he urged police officers to "keep your heads up" amid low morale and plans for reform centered on accountability. 

"All the internal stuff, all the political stuff, all the reforms, everything that's coming with us, we will work with the city. We will work with the state," McNesby said. "That's on us. We will take care of that. That's why you elected us."