This past Saturday morning, the Keystone State Skinheads (KSS) held their seventh annual rally in Philadelphia to celebrate Leif Erikson, the Nordic explorer who is believed to have been the first European to land in North America. The 40 or so racist skinheads who showed up at Fairmount Park were met by about 100 anti-racist counter-protesters.
Before the rally, a shouting match took place at the staging area at the top of Lemon Hill Drive with counter-protesters screaming, among other things, “death to the Nazis, power to the people.” Afterward, both racists and anti-racists marched to the Thorfinn Karlsefni statue in the park. Karlsefni was a Nordic explorer who founded a North American settlement that lasted three years.
Members of several racist groups were in attendance besides the KSS, including Vinlanders from Indiana and Oklahoma, the Advanced White Society, the Blood and Honour “Social Club,” and the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN). Matt Heimbach of the TYN spoke at the rally. “We must stand united against opponents of our race,” Heimbach told the crowd, according to philly.com. “Our day will come and our foes will be defeated.” Also speaking at the rally was Brien James, a founder of the Vinlanders Social Club.
The organizers of the event, the KSS, were founded in 2001. At one time, the KSS had many members and several chapters in Pennsylvania, but it has dwindled as of late. In 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed only two chapters of the group, in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Several well-known members have been arrested over the last decade for violent crimes, but in recent years, the group has tried to distance itself from those incidents.
“This is a heritage celebration, nothing more,” A.J. Olsen, a member of the KSS, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s no different from having a Columbus Day festival.”