Skinheads' Fairmount Park rally faces protesters' taunts

Skinhead Anthony Marcink (left) of Indiana with counter- protester Anthony Robledo of New York.
Skinhead Anthony Marcink (left) of Indiana with counter- protester Anthony Robledo of New York. (APRIL SAUL / Staff)
Posted: October 21, 2013

A confrontation staged annually on Kelly Drive between a skinhead group promoting white supremacy and counterprotesters took place on Saturday mostly without incident, with police keeping the sides separated as they taunted each other.

About 40 people descended on Fairmount Park on Saturday morning to celebrate Leif Erikson, the Nordic explorer believed to be the first European to step onto North American shores.

The rally, the seventh such event, was organized by the Keystone State Skinheads, which in recent years has gone by Keystone United but which still uses the original name on its website and for planning events.

The group always marches bearing flags and banners from Lemon Hill to the Erikson statue on Kelly Drive, where some members give speeches.

"This is a heritage celebration, nothing more," said A.J. Olsen, a longtime member of the Keystone group who organized the rally. "It's no different from having a Columbus Day festival."

Martin Heinbach of Baltimore was one of several speakers advocating white supremacy. "We must stand united against opponents of our race," he said. "Our day will come and our foes will be defeated."

As in past years, the group was quickly outnumbered by protesters who linked arms to block its way, shouted insults, and tried to drown it out with air horns and chants. This year, a number of gay activists joined in, some wearing dresses.

"We're just here to make some Nazis uncomfortable," said Kyle Prouty, a Philadelphia activist who wore a low-cut purple gown.

Olsen, 25, said the protesters were off-base in their accusations.

"They say we're hatemongers, but there's nothing like that on our website," he said. "I don't know why they bother coming here - we're not here to bother them."

Founded in 2001, Keystone State once had hundreds of members and several chapters throughout the state. It has since dwindled, said Anthony Griggs of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, who estimated there were fewer than 100 active Keystone State members remaining. Many at Saturday's rally were from out of state.

Several well-known members of the group have been arrested over the last decade for violent crimes, but in recent years, the group has tried to distance itself from those incidents.

"By our own fault, we've allowed ourselves to be deemed nothing but drunken hooligans and misfits that do nothing but cause chaos and havoc in our communities," reads a 2011 blog post on the Keystone website. Nowadays, members seek to portray themselves simply as promoters of the white race above all others.

Saturday's rally drew gawkers, too, from passing joggers to others who heard about the rally and wanted to get a look at the group, such as Robert Patterson, an African American man who took his 13-year-old son.

Patterson scoffed at the idea the group was not there to promote hate.

"These guys, their beliefs are outdated," he said. "They're living back in the day. This is a melting pot now - you got to learn to get along with everybody."


asteele@phillynews.com

610-313-8113

@AESteele

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|