Jun 29, 2023 - News

Moms for Liberty summit in Philly meets backlash

Illustration of a mob of protestors holding signs shaped like text bubbles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Conservative group Moms for Liberty is kicking off a four-day summit Thursday in Philadelphia that has sparked weeks-long protests and drawn heavy criticism from elected officials.

Why it matters: The self-labeled "parental rights" group's event is bringing school board hopefuls from across the country to overwhelmingly Democratic Philly, where they'll receive training and hear from high-profile right-wing speakers, including former President Donald Trump.

  • Meanwhile, state senators, activists and historians are denouncing the event and the city hotel and museum hosting it.

Details: The second-annual Joyful Warriors National Summit runs through Sunday at the Marriott Downtown in Center City, with a welcome reception Thursday at the Museum of the American Revolution.

  • State Sen. Nikil Saval joined other Democratic state senators in urging the hotel and museum to not host the event.
  • Some museum staffers have protested and petitioned museum president Scott Stephenson to reconsider hosting it, Philadelphia Gay News reports.

Catch up quick: Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, has drawn national attention for efforts to elect conservatives to school district boards, lift pandemic restrictions, and ban books in libraries and schools related to the LGBTQ and trans communities, like in Bucks County.

  • The organization was recently labeled an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Details: The event has sold out its 650 tickets. Keynote speakers include Republican presidential hopefuls, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

  • Workshop offerings cover topics like "Protecting Kids from Gender Ideology," and "Comprehensive Sex Education: Sex Ed or Sexualization," per the group's website.

State of play: Temporary detours could be set up around the summit, police spokesperson Eric McLaurin tells Axios.

  • The city will prioritize public safety during the event, Kenney administration spokesperson Sarah Peterson tells Axios.
  • Philly is a "proud welcoming city that celebrates diversity, values inclusion, stands against hate and discrimination, and also values and protects the rights of citizens to express their views peacefully," she added.

Zoom out: Moms for Liberty has a big following in Pennsylvania.

What they're saying: Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, said the goal of the summit was to "unify, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government."

The other side: "According to [Moms for Liberty], I don’t deserve to be treated like a human being. I don’t deserve to learn about the history of any of my communities," Jazmyn Henderson, a member of Philadelphia AIDS activist group ACT-UP, who identifies as a Black Jewish trans woman, tells Axios.

Of note: Alex McKechnie, a spokesperson for the Museum of the American Revolution, said in a statement that "rejecting visitors on the basis of ideology would in fact be antithetical to our purpose."

  • The Marriott hotel did not return Axios' request for comment.

What to watch: ACT-UP and other groups are expected to continue protesting outside the museum and hotel during the event.


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