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A 75-year-old restaurant owner in Philadelphia had nearly all the windows of his business destroyed early on New Year’s Day in an attack he blames on antifa.
“They’re terrorists. They just knocked out $20,000 worth of glass,” says restaurant owner Jack Gillespie. He says the vandalism this week is the culmination of weeks of targeted harassment by left-wing activists and antifa groups angry that members of two right-wing organizations were allowed to patronize the Millcreek Tavern.
On Nov. 15, 2019, around 15 members of the Proud Boys and a local Turning Point USA chapter had an unofficial social gathering at the restaurant and bar in West Philadelphia. As news of the meeting spread online, it led to a wave of negative reviews and harassment directed at the restaurant’s owner and staff.
“I don’t have any idea who the Proud Boys are,” Gillespie says. The Proud Boys is a controversial right-wing men’s group and drinking club formed after the election of Donald Trump. Some of its members have been convicted for their involvement in street brawls with antifa militants.
Gillespie has been in business for 34 years and says he tries to maintain an apolitical environment where people can enjoy drinks, food, karaoke and pool. But the public backlash continued after he refused to issue a blanket ban of the right-wing group or TPUSA.
As a result, Millcreek Tavern was flooded with phone calls and threats of violence. The review section for its business on Facebook and Yelp were bombarded with negative reviews by people accusing the restaurant of being a haven for hate. “It was an assassination attempt on my character,” says Gillespie.
Online, left-wing activists and antifa-linked groups accused the restaurant of having a history of hate. In 2017, Gillespie cancelled the booking of a metal band accused of having songs with anti-Semitic lyrics. Some activists blamed the restaurant for allowing the band to book a show in the first place.
Philadelphia is home to some of the most active and violent antifa militants on the East Coast. Three Philadelphia antifa “leaders” are facing trial in March stemming from a 2018 mob beating of two Marines they mistook for being Proud Boys.
Gillespie says he hoped the backlash would blow over but on Nov. 20, a heavy metal object was thrown through one of the restaurant’s windows. The harassment seemed to slow down over Christmas but it escalated again this week.
On the early hours of Wednesday morning, a security camera outside the business captured the moment four black-clad vandals sprayed “F— piss boys” and “ACAB” on the building before smashing all the windows along the side of the restaurant. “ACAB”, short for “all cops are bastards,” is often chanted at antifa protests and riots.
Gillespie, who is a former police officer, says he isn’t in fear for his safety despite receiving a death threat by post. “I worked seven years in the homicide division,” he says. However, he admits to being concerned about the stress his employees are being placed under.
“I hope [antifa] leave the innocent people alone. This affects the employees, not us,” says Sonny Sullivan, a 31-year-old Philadelphia Proud Boy member who was at the tavern in November. He confirms the Proud Boys was at the business along with an unspecified number of alleged TPUSA “members” from Drexel University (the group did not respond for comment).
Online, various left-wing activists and antifa groups cheered the vandalism on Millcreek Tavern. Philadelphia-based left-wing activist, Gwen Snyder, wrote a mocking letter to Gillespie on Facebook with a photo of the damage: “I just wanted to thank you for doing your civic duty and making your building available to the Mural Arts program of Philadelphia.”
This isn’t the first time businesses have had to deal with severe backlash from left-wing activists following the patronage of Proud Boys members. In July 2018, a bar in Los Angeles was descended on by left-wing protesters who caught wind of a Proud Boys gathering inside. The incident led to a pushing match and the bar later capitulated and issued an apology to the community. The Griffin promised to “screen” future patrons for potentially offensive views.
Then last month, a sports bar in Lake Stevens, Wash. was vandalized with graffiti that read, “F— Nazi Proud Boys” and “No Nazis in our town.” Activists accused the management of Razzals Bar & Grill of allowing the group to socialize there. Its Yelp and Facebook pages were similarly bombarded with negative reviews.
The vandalism attacks on the Millcreek Tavern this week are currently being investigated by police. The FBI is also taking a look at the death threats Gillespie received via post and online.
Gillespie knows many want him out of business but he’s remaining optimistic. “You can’t please these people,” he says. After discovering the broken windows on Wednesday, he immediately assembled a team to clean up the glass and board up the windows. The tavern opened the same day.