BY JOEY SWEENEY
Amidst all of our grousing — the changes happening so rapidly in the city’s mad churn, the grinding gears of gentrification and crap politicians producing fresh humiliations daily — it feels good to remember that this is the kind of place Philadelphia is: It’s the kind of place where a group of black bloc anarchists can have their hides saved by a few hundred wheelie kids, as the local police tell a small, dejected, incredulous group of out-of-town Trump supporters that they should really consider going home. On Saturday, this is precisely what transpired.
On Saturday morning, the #MAGA March we’d written about previously began in earnest near Independence Hall. From the start, it was evident that the #MAGA group’s choice of location showed how fundamentally flawed their perception of this country’s basic tenets really are: In the same way that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, those who wrap themselves in the flag often are not familiar with the words it represents:
In any case, the First Amendment guarantees even the most confused among us to voice their opinions, and so here they were. And on the other side of the little veal pen authorities had put up as protection for these definitely-not-snowflake pro-Trump demonstrators was… everybody else. And much as in the larger reality of America right now, there were a hell of a lot more of them than there were of the other poor fools. Worse news still for the Trump brigade, they were Philadelphians, known for their volume as well their magic touch when it comes to the profane.
Accounts vary, but in short order, something like this happened: At some point, black bloc protestors had effectively hijacked the #MAGA March, and made it their own. Authorities on the scene had been reported as variously telling the #MAGA crew to “go back to their automobiles” — it was assumed they’d all driven there, being from places that require the misery that only automotive travel could deliver you to — and also being “pissed” at how many of them were openly carrying firearms. In Philly, you see, we prefer our firearms concealed; anything else registers as tacky. (The finer points of all of the above, we should remind you, are hearsay, and indeed, over on the #MAGA March Facebook event page, they’re still complaining about it.)
Even so, the threat of violence lingered in the air as the black bloc co-opted the #MAGA March’s protest route through Center City — for as much as the Philly police might have been annoyed with the #MAGA mooks, it’s not like they have special love for a gang of masked black bloc anarchists, either. After all, this is Philadelphia, on a Saturday; everyone’s primary concern should have been brunch. And so the cops began a process called “kettling,” a kind of cops-vs.-demonstrators cat-and-mouse series of actions that attempt to corner an element and contain/detain it.
Just then, something fantastic happened: The wheelie kids showed up and mingled right into the space on the Parkway where the black bloc folks were, too. In a matter of seconds, a threat diffused, even as confusion and rancor still played out. “Wheelie kids?,” some of you are quite rightly asking. Yes, wheelie: That group of unattended minors who seem to be gaining a sort of cultural momentum and infamy around the city, even as acne and emotions begin to threaten their very being. And so it went, and so went the attempted kettling: Police actions simply can’t go a certain way when there are children involved. Even more so when many of them are popping wheelies.