Sunday, January 3, 2016

Pro-Refugee and Anti-Refugee Demonstrators Gather in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Among some Americans, fear of Islamic extremism continues to breed fear of Syrian refugees, and Pennsylvania has been no exception. Yet another anti-refugee rally took place this weekend in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley, but its message did not go unchallenged.

On January 2nd, opposing rallies took place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one opposed to resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S., and another in support of refugees. The dueling demonstrations took place outside of Church World Service, which provides services to immigrants and refugees in central Pennsylvania.

According to Lancaster Online, the Facebook page for the "End the Influx of Refugees Rally" called Church World Service "a phony Christian group bringing refugees into our commonwealth" and claimed that "[t]heir only god is gold and they intend to get rich at our expense." One of the organizers of the End the Influx of Refugees Rally was Bridget Fisher of the Patriotic Liberty League. Fisher told Lancaster Online that the rally was not about xenophobia, but "tyranny", insisting that "our government is failing us" and "Americans have to come first."

Photos captured by Pennlive show anti-refugee protesters with signs that read "Vets B4 Refugees" and "Secure Our Border". Pennlive also reported that one man held a white flag with a red cross, a symbol of the Knights Templar.

Pennlive shared a video of John Rentschler, a co-organizer for the End the Influx of Refugees Rally, warning attendees about Islam, refugees, and extremism.
"They call us racist because we don't want bomb factories sprouting up in the house next door. They call us bigots because we don't want the problems associated with Islam in the Middle East being played out in our country. They don't see the harm and damage being done to Europe and Greece and Malta and all these other countries which are being inundated right now. How many more events like the one in San Bernardino, the one in Boston, the one in Fort Hood, and 9/11 do we need before we get real? How many Holocausts and [inaudible] do we need before we realize that tyranny is all the same, all evil?

Instead of blaming the ones that are responsible, like ISIS and terrorists, our White House blamed the NRA. They blamed people like you and I because we're evil white people."

On the other hand, the Lancaster Welcomes Refugees Rally expressed solidarity with refugees in the Susquehanna Valley. Hosted by the Seed (a Lancaster restaurant and community space), the counter-rally drew roughly 200 demonstrators, according to Pennlive.

"The reality is that individuals who come to this community have been coming for over thirty years," said Kevin Ressler, co-organizer of the pro-refugee rally and director of Lancaster Meals on Wheels. In a video posted by Pennlive, Ressler observed that resettled refugees are productive members of the community. "They significantly contribute to the local economy through a variety of means," he said.

I'm disappointed that some of my fellow Pennsylvanians are cultivating fear through xenophobic rallies. However, many other Pennsylvanians strive to help refugees and cultivate welcoming communities, which gives me hope. I applaud those who organized and attended the Lancaster Welcomes Refugees Rally. Syrian refugees who have resettled in the U.S. have already endured enough misery.


  1. Always best to see the glass half full. So nice to hear about a welcome rally.

    1. Donna -- It's comforting to know that sane people are speaking out against xenophobia.

  2. The "white flag with a red cross" sounds a lot like the flag of England(a recent fave with racists who don't care to be assocoated with the Confederacy). The Templar's banner, the Oriflamme, was "piebald" or black and white checks like the finish flag in auto racing.

    1. DMC -- Thanks for stopping by. I didn't realize that the English flag had been adopted by those types. If that was the flag in question at the rally, it's disconcerting.

  3. "How many more events like the one in San Bernardino, the one in Boston, the one in Fort Hood, and 9/11 do we need before we get real?"

    San Bernardino mass shooting: Not perpetrated by Syrian refugees
    Boston Marathon bombing: Not perpetrated by Syrian refugees
    Fort Hood: Not perpetrated by Syrian refugees
    9/11: Not perpetrated by Syrian refugees

    … Not that facts matter ...

    1. Agi Tater -- They should focus on extremists, not Syrian refugees. Instead, they scapegoat Syrian refugees because it's easier than analyzing these attacks.


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