April 01, 2017
A day after the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an "anti-transgender," "Free Speech Bus" rolled into Philadelphia on Saturday and was temporarily blocked by dozens of protesters.
The large, orange bus that's touring the East Coast has a message that reads, "It's Biology. Boys are boys and always will be. Girls are girls and always will be. You can't change sex. Respect all."
The bus drove by City Hall on Saturday afternoon where a video from one person present showed many shouting "trans lives matter." Two smoke bombs were set off while about 100 activists were able to keep the bus from moving, Philly.com reported.
A spokesperson with the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed that one person was either arrested or issued a citation, though the Office of LGBT Affairs later said that that person is expected to be released Saturday.
The tour has been organized by several groups, including CitizenGO which hopes to "defend and promote life, family and liberty." The National Organization for Marriage, developed in response to "the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures" is also said to be an organizer.
A Facebook event called "Philling Our Streets With Love at Hate Speech Bus Tour " was organized in preparation for the bus's arrival Saturday.
"Join us to show the love PA has for its trans community members!" the event page read. "We want to #PhilOurStreetsWithLove and encourage all with love in their hearts to stand up with us against transphobia, ignorance and injustice.”
Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs said during a rally Saturday that while Philadelphia is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the country, there is still a lot of work to be done.
She touched on the resolution passed by City Council on March 23 commemorating March 31 as "Transgender Day of Visibility" and noted that "silence is violence."
"Our purpose here today is not to combat hatred with more hatred," Hikes said. "We're not here to combat bigotry and ignorance with more bigotry and ignorance. We are here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to wrap our loving arms around our trans community and let them know that love is louder."
The Office of LGBT Affairs said that Philadelphia was the only city where the bus was not able to stop.
"We got that bus right out of our city!" the office said in a Facebook post. "NOT ON OUR WATCH!! Thank you to everyone who showed up and stood up for our trans community."
The bus left shortly after noon on Saturday, according to Philly.com.
The National Organization for Marriage posted a video to its Facebook feed Saturday, showing the temporary block in Philly.
"We hope that everybody out there is being safe," said Joe Grabowski of the National Organization for Marriage in the video. "All we're asking is for respect to be shown to us as we show respect for others, we'd like to just head on our way. Unfortunately, this is the way free speech is being greeted in the City of Brotherly Love."
The bus has been vandalized and met by protesters in the past in cities like Boston and New York.
Note: A previous version of this article noted that the "Free Speech Bus Tour" stopped at City Hall. The article has been corrected to reflect that the bus drove by and did not park. The article has also been updated with additional information from the Office of LGBT Affairs.