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Republicans Joined With Skinheads and Neo-Nazis to Organize Anti-Immigrant Protests in Pennsylvania

"Christian" activist Barbara Metzler Speaking with neo-nazi Ian McCorts standing behind her
"Christian" activist Barbara Metzler Speaking with neo-nazi Ian McCorts standing behind her

Islamophobia has been on the rise across the country since the Paris attacks on November 13th. Mainstream politicians have endorsed and attended them at a time when 47 democrats voted to close the doors on Syrian refugees, at least 54 percent of Americans want to do the same, and major Republican front-runner Donald Trump supports forcing Muslims to wear ID badges.

In fact, anti-refugee protests are popping up all over the country. In Pennsylvania, Neo-Nazis from Keystone United, Tea Party members, patriot movement members, and Republican committee members are among the organizers of these protests.

Republican Chairwoman Mary Ann Benitez (Lackawanna County) is featured on the front-page banner of a neo-Nazi Facebook page.

“Keystone United” was known as the “Keystone State Skinheads (KSS)” until 2009. They are one of the most active single-state skinhead groups in the US, and the SPLC has categorized them as a “racist skinhead extremist group” and elaborated on their image and actions.

“While its members attempt to project a mediagenic image of being part of a new breed of more sophisticated and less spasmodically violent skins, the truth is that the group’s members have been convicted of a string of remarkably violent attacks dating back to at least 1998, ranging from bar brawls to murder.”

These far right groups are responding to a recent decision by Governor Tom Wolf to support the refugees. Senator Bob Casey also spoke publicly about accepting Syrian refugees in Pennsylvania.

Two anti-refugee rallies were held in Pennsylvania, both of which were attended by Keystone United and other far right groups.

Republican Chairwoman (Lackawanna County) Mary Ann Benitez and Neo-Nazi Steve Smith at the same overpass in 2014
Republican Chairwoman Mary Ann Benitez (Lackawanna
County) and Neo-Nazi Steve Smith in 2014 at the same overpass
where they recently organized an anti-immigrant rally.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 40 or so people protested at the State Capitol on November 2oth. Some of their signs and banners read “Terrorist Invasion, No Refugees” and “Aiding a Foreign Invasion is Treason.”

The main organizer for the Harrisburg rally was Christian activist Barbara Metzler. She spoke at the event and without any sources claimed that “91% of Muslims are on welfare or food stamps.”

Dan Gray, a speaker and writer with the Patriot Militia Movement in PA went a step further and said, “Islam is based on Mohammad, and he was a murderer,” he said. “Call me a bigot or racist, I don’t care.”

John Rentschler, who is a Republican committeeman and Civil War reenactor from Berks County, PA, shared Gray’s sentiments and said he “imagined the chorus of voices who would denounce him as a racist, as xenophobic, Islamophobic, as a bigot.” He followed up by saying, “What matters to me is MY family, MY home, MY people, MY state, MY country,” as the crowd said “Amen” after each declaration he made. He went on to claim that “our nation is being crushed by multiculturalism, political correctness, and race-guilting.”

“Steve Smith has been active in an extraordinary array of white nationalist, skinhead, and neo-Nazi groups, including American Third Position, KSS, and the Council of Conservative Citizens. He is a former Aryan Nations member and former leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, which was created by former Klan leader David Duke but is no longer associated with him.” – SPLC


In Scranton, PA, a highway overpass protest was organized and attended by Keystone United members on November 21st. About 11 people joined them, and the co-founder of the Keystone State Skinheads, current director of the of the European American Action Coalition (EAAC), and committee member for the Luzerne County GOP since 2012 stood front and center.

This is not the only connection between the GOP and neo-nazis in Pennsylvania.

Republican Chairwoman (Lackawanna County) Mary Ann Benitez was also present at the overpass protest. Benitez is pictured in the NEPA Patriots Facebook page’s cover photo, and regularly attends anti-immigrant protests.

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