Activists and Scholars Decry Museum’s Decision to Host Far-Right Group

Dozens of activists gathered outside the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia yesterday, June 29, to protest its decision to host a private event for the far-right group Moms for Liberty (M4L). Members of local advocacy groups Act Up Philly and the Young Communist League held a four-hour “dance party protest” in opposition to this weekend’s so-called “Joyful Warriors Summit.”

The conference, which begins today, June 30, and runs through July 2, will feature numerous conservative speakers including former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Last night’s demonstrations, which were led by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC organizers, kicked off what will be a full weekend of protests against the extremist group’s summit, held this year at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott hotel. In recent days, historians and scholarly organizations also released statements decrying the use of the museum as an event venue for the conference.

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In the weeks leading up to the conference, the Museum of the American Revolution has been under pressure from not only local advocacy groups but also its own staff to cancel the M4L private booking. Trish Norman, an assistant curator at the museum, told Hyperallergic in an email that prior to last night’s opening reception, the “majority of staff members had pleaded with leadership to cancel the event rental.”

“As a queer museum professional who has been outspoken about the museum’s rental to Moms for Liberty, I believe that the rental agreement goes against the museum’s mission and values,” Norman told Hyperallergic. They explained that they felt it was necessary to join last night’s protests when the private event moved forward as planned.

The demonstrations against the M4L summit are being led by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC+ organizers. (photo by and courtesy Joe Piette)

In the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) 2022 report on hate and extremism, the watchdog flagged M4L for the group’s attacks on “inclusive curriculum, LGBTQ+ rights, and what they see as inappropriate reading material in classrooms and libraries.” The group is also classified as a 501(c)4 organization, a non-profit tax-exempt status that has been criticized for the group’s political activity.

Historians have also criticized the Museum of the American Revolution for booking the private event. Earlier this week, the American Historical Association published a letter urging the museum to “reconsider its decision” to host the M4L private event. The Organization of American Historians also released a statement denouncing the museum’s decision, citing the M4L’s “harm to accurate and inclusive history, harm to the work undertaken everyday by our community of historians, and harm to individual historians — especially in the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.” Other scholarly organizations including the National Council on Public History, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and the Committee on LGBT History have all issued statements as well.

Organizer Jazmyn Henderson, who was also at yesterday’s protest and is currently at another scheduled “dance party protest” at the Marriott, told Hyperallergic over the phone that while she felt yesterday’s demonstration went well, she was also “disheartened” by the “hypervigilance” of local authorities at the event.

“They were literally impinging on our right to protest,” Henderson said. “Most of us [demonstrators] are people who live in Philly, and [the authorities] were protecting outsiders.”

Demonstrators gathered outside the museum in a “dance party protest” that ran for four hours. (photo by and courtesy Rachael Warriner)

She said authorities put up barricades on South Third Street in front of the building to keep demonstrators at a distance from the M4L opening reception, yet did not take action when M4L members apparently “poured beer right in front of the cops.”

“Otherwise, I think [our demonstrations] are going pretty good,” Henderson told Hyperallergic. “Our purpose is to make sure that [M4L] knows that they’re not wanted here, and I believe they have gotten that understanding.”

In response to Henderson’s claims, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department told Hyperallergic that authorities were onsite in response to vandalism reports and are currently investigating the case.

Hyperallergic has contacted the Museum of the American Revolution for comment. Previously, a museum spokesperson said that because “fostering understanding within a democratic society is so central to [the museum’s] mission, rejecting visitors based on ideology would in fact be antithetical to [the institution’s] purpose.”

But many of its employees don’t agree with that characterization. “Moms for Liberty is the antithesis of what my coworkers and I do on a daily basis,” Norman said, adding that both they and their fellow coworkers are “committed to telling a more inclusive and therefore more accurate history” of the United States.


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