March 25, 2017
Dozens of Donald Trump supporters marched through the streets of Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon in an effort to show their appreciation for the president, Vice President Mike Pence, the U.S. military and police officers.
The Pennsylvania Make America Great Again march was one of several rallies held throughout the country on Saturday. But the Trump supporters did not have the streets to themselves — a group of anti-Trump protesters attempted to disrupt the march.
To a certain extent, each side accomplished its mission.
Trump supporters marched through Center City, waving flags, thanking police and praising Trump. But police forced them to return to Old City before they could reach the Philadelphia Museum of Art, their intended destination.
Throughout the day, police sought to keep Trump supporters away from a group of anti-Trump protesters organized by Antifa, an anti-fascism group operating in Philadelphia. The two sides never engaged in a major confrontation.
Carter Paulmier, 24, of the Germantown section of Philly, said he marched alongside the Trump supporters because he agrees with Trump's policies regarding the Syrian civil war.
"Nobody's talking about that," Paulmier said while carrying a Syrian flag. "There's Americans over there. It's just a non-issue to most people."
Trump supporters began the day with a rally at Independence Mall, where they vouched their support of Trump and praised the service of police officers and veterans. Waving Trump flags, the crowd sang patriotic songs, including the National Anthem.
About 100 Antifa protesters soon began marching around Independence Mall, escorted by police. Most of them dressed entirely in black and covered their faces with masks. At various times, they paused to light flares and burn an American flag.
At least one protester was arrested and placed in handcuffs by police, shortly after the American flag was burned.
Police used metal barricades, bike patrols and mounted officers to prevent the groups from meeting, an attempt to avoid any possible violent confrontations.
After marching around Independence Hall several times, the Antifa protesters moved westward, with police eventually directing them toward Logan Square.
Many Trump supporters grew frustrated as they were forced to wait more than an hour before commencing their march. They expressed anger that police were preventing them from marching — despite having a permit — while the Antifa protesters paraded around the area without having obtained their own permit.
But shortly before 2 p.m., Trump supporters began their march alongside a police escort of their own. They chanted "USA" and proudly waved their Donald Trump flags as they walked west on Market Street and around City Hall.
Along the way, they were met with sporadic protesters — unaffiliated with the Antifa group — who shouted "Boo Donald Trump" and called them racists.
Police halted the march near 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, saying it was unsafe for the Trump supporters to continue heading to the art museum. When some Trump supporters attempted to press onward, police rushed to prevent them from going any further.
Within a few minutes, the Trump marchers agreed to return to Independence Mall. They then marched around the south side of City Hall and eastward on Market Street, again encountering protesters along the way.
Trump supporters and protesters shouted back-and-forth at one another during their walk back to Old City, but violence never broke out.
One Trump supporter, who declined to give his name because he claimed he was physically threatened by a protester, called the march a success.
Though Antifa prevented them from reaching the museum, he said the news cameras captured contrasting styles of demonstrations.
"I think there was a very strong contrast with the way we interacted with police and society as a whole and the way the Antifa rabble-rousers acted," he said. "... Some of the things these people say, it's unbelievable. Just the pure hatred — middle fingers up."
Upon reaching Independence Mall, the Trump crowd briefly lingered before dispersing around 3:30 p.m.
PhillyVoice reporter John Kopp and photographer Thom Caroll provided live updates, photos and Facebook Live videos throughout the march. Check out a gallery of photos here and see how social media is reacting to the events here.
Their live reporting can be read below:
• • •
Saturday, 3:32 p.m.
It appears the Make America Great Again March is beginning to break up.
Here's the march scorecard:
Pro-Trump supporters: They got their march in, but didn't make it to their intended rallying point at the art museum.
Anti-Trump protesters: They succeeded in keeping the marchers from getting all the way down the Ben Franklin Parkway. But it wasn't exactly "a show of force" either. And that is probably good news.
Philadelphia police: Perhaps the biggest winners of the day. It was tense at times, but they remained professional and courteous to both marchers and protesters. They let the march go off, and did what they had to do to keep the peace.
Saturday, 3:16 p.m.
Heading east on Market, a small contingent of Trump folks reach 9th Street on its way back to Independence Hall...
...the pro-Trumpers have reached Independence Mall in Old City. They will not reach the art museum today, apparently.
A group of about 20 protesters are shouting, "Racists, go home!" at them.
Saturday, 3:03 p.m.
Saturday, 2:58 p.m.
The march remains stalled in front of 2 Penn Center on JFK Boulevard, as both ends of the street are blocked by barricades, police vehicles and bike cops.
It looks like the march is making a U-turn, and heading back toward City Hall.
A cop is overheard saying that everybody's heading back to Old City.
Police are trying very hard to keep the two sides apart.
Now the Trump people are on the move again. Heading around the south side of City Hall.
They are being led back onto Market Street toward Independence Hall. About 20-plus protesters – not the Antifa crowd – is shouting back and forth with them.
Protester: "Get out of our city. You're not welcome here."
Trump supporter: "Take the hate out of your heart."
Saturday, 2:38 p.m.
Things are heating up a bit at City Hall.
The march is stalled at 15th and JFK. A few protesters are shouting back and forth with the Trump crowd, some shouting "You are racist" and "Hey Hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go."
A Trump supporter, in response, is shouting back that Trump will leave after his second term, prompting a chant of "four more years."
Now a police officer is yelling to the crowd to disperse for safety reasons. Still stopped at City Hall, some marchers are saying they have a right to be here. Meanwhile, a mounted patrol just went galloping down JFK to block off 16th and JFK. Police are putting up barracudas at nearby intersections to prevent the marchers and the "Resistance" protesters from having a confrontation.
On Trump supporter is encourage his fellow marchers to break off, saying Antifa is nearby. Another responds that the Trump folks can hold them off.
With the Trump crowd trying to continue onward, officers have rushed to the front to set up a police line to block them. Between 15th and 16th on JFK.
Saturday, 2:16 p.m.
MAGA marchers, some of them wearing face-obscuring masks or scarves, have reached 13th and Market streets on their way to the Philadelphia art museum , as one bystander yells: "You need bodyguards! You couldn't walk through these streets without bodyguards!"
Saturday, 2:05 p.m.
The march has continued up Market Street, with Trump signs a-waving. More "U.S.A." chants.
A few bystanders are shouting back, including one who told them to go back to "Pennsyltucky."
There is unconfirmed talk that Antifa protesters are waiting in the vicinity of City Hall.
Now nearing 11th Street, on Market, as some protesters greet them with "Boo Donald Trump!"
Saturday, 1:55 p.m.
More police officers on bicycles have arrived on scene (perhaps to facilitate the march?)
And, now, the Trump march is on the move, turning up Fifth Street.
Saturday, 1:45 p.m.
The "Resistance" protesters' pledge to keep the MAGA marchers from reaching the Philadelphia Art Museum may have been more successful than they could have hoped. There are some social media reports indicating the march has been canceled – without a step being taken off Independence Mall.
But Trump supporters are countering that sentiment on the scene, saying they're still marching down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. They're waving flags as they wait, singing the National Anthem. But make no mistake: they are frustrated they haven't been given approval to begin marching yet.
"It's ridiculous," said Anthony, 33, who declined to give his last name. "We got permits. They don't. We shouldn't be stalled at all."
Anthony, of Catasauqua, Lehigh County, said they're prepared to march to the art museum.
"We're marching," he said. "We told them (police), with or without you, we're going."
Saturday, 1:23 p.m.
Police have blocked the Trump marchers from marching – for now – and the pro-Trump people are growing frustrated that the protesters are able to move freely while they are stuck in a pen. Supporters say they angry because they have the city permit to march.
Police – about 40 strong at the scene – are trying to stop the protesters from engaging the MAGA rallyers.
Saturday, 1:08 p.m.
The pro-Trump marchers are being led toward Independence Hall, and protesters are hurrying to get there.
Saturday, 12:50 p.m.
Looks like the Make American Great Again March may be getting ready to roll. As they wait to get started, the crowd of about 75 people Trump fans remain gathered and talking on the Mall. The Antifa protesters are standing in the middle of Sixth and Market. In between: Police and metal barriers.
The tenor has quieted somewhat for now, as chanting has subsided for the moment.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
At least one person has been arrested during the "resistance" protest. Protesters are burning an American flag and road flares.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters are singing "Proud to be an American."
Six mounted officers have just joined the police presence on the Mall.
Saturday, 12:16 p.m.
Members of Antifa, a fascism-fighting organization in Philadelphia, are marching around Independence Mall, dressed in black hoodies and many wearing masks. They are being accompanied by police.
One protester, who declined to give his name, said he fears a fascist uprising – the same fascism his Italian grandparents fled more than 60 years ago.
"We need to stand up before this s*** gets out of control," he said. "My family has seen this before. ... This is racism coming back. It's not here yet but it's coming back."
Antifa's web page says the group is in "direct conflict with Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all the various other flavors of Fascism."
Saturday, 11:51 a.m.
The Trump supporters have now moved away from a group of dressed-in-black protesters onto the Mall. About an equal number of protesters – maybe 50 – remain lined up along the Market Street sidewalk.
Christian Snyder, 29, of Boyertown, Berks County, said he is supportive of Trump's early days in office, though he saw the health care vote as a hiccup.
"I really resonate with his message of draining the swamp," he said. "There's a lot of people on corporate government who aren't listening to us and taking the money."
Snyder said he was glad Philly has not had the violence seen in Berkeley, California, but he also said he is disappointed many Trump supporters haven't previously rallied in Philly.
Still, he said, he packed milk in the event that marchers are sprayed with pepper spray.
"Just in case something happens," he said. "I don't want to see anyone get hurt, like in Berkeley."
Saturday, 11:45 a.m.
Trump supporters are shouting back "show your face!" at a masked protester who shouted at them. He flipped them off with both hands.
Several anti-trump supporters have gathered in the area, holding signs that read "NO! DRIVE OUT TRUMP/PENCE REGIME!"
The supporters and opponents are separated by a metal barrier.
Both sides are hurling insults and chants at the other.
Saturday, 11:38 a.m.
About 50 Donald Trump supporters have gathered on Independence Mall in preparation of the Make America Great Again march.
Many are waving Trump flags emblazoned with his campaign slogan. Others are holding American flags and messages supporting police.
As some anti-Trump protesters approached the area, they began singing "God Bless America" and chanting "USA."
Political demonstrations have been a common sight in Philadelphia since Donald Trump won the presidency back in November.
In the months that have passed, protesters have filled the city's streets to vouch for women's rights, support immigrant rights and decry efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, among other issues. Just days after the inauguration, thousands of people marched around City Hall to protest an appearance by Trump himself.
On Saturday, Trump's supporters are taking their turn. But they're expected to be met with resistance — and some fear violence could break out.
Hundreds of Trump supporters are expected to gather outside Independence Hall at 11:30 a.m. Saturday to show their support for Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and first responders as part of the Pennsylvania Make America Great Again March. They plan to march several miles through Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
But a group of anti-Trump protesters have vowed to prevent the Trump crowd from reaching the art museum. Dubbed #DisruptMAGA, the group is encouraging "a diversity of tactics."
The group has declined to publicly announce the time or location that its members intend to confront the Trump marchers. It purposefully did not seek out a permit, an organizer told PhillyVoice on Thursday.
"Saturday will be proof positive that the resistance is alive and well and continuing to grow," the organizer said. "I don't know what Saturday will look like — there are a lot of possibilities — but it could be a historic occasion. It will be a show of force."
The MAGA march has gained a permit and, like any pre-planned, mass demonstration in the city, will be accompanied by police. Its event page bills the march as an opportunity to show unity and patriotism while thanking the people who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
"We love our freedom and owe the men and women who put their own lives on the line to ensure that freedom," the event page states. "We owe those who put their life on the line to the line to ensure we are safe and protected every day. We are the silent majority and we are ready for a real change."
The anti-Trump protest organizer, who declined to give his name, pledged protesters would attempt to prevent police from passing through their protest line. But he also said he was concerned some Trump marchers could be carrying "concealed weapons" and would attempt to make "citizen's arrests."
"These fascist enablers will be told to leave because they're not allowed in Philadelphia," he said. "We want them to feel very unwelcome in our city. This is not going to be a family-friendly event."
Follow PhillyVoice here and on Facebook for live coverage of the march and counter-protest.
Staff writer Brian Hickey contributed to this report.