Parental rights proponents, presidential candidates and protesters were all out in full force as The Moms for Liberty summit kicked off its first full day in Philadelphia Friday to a mix of faithful fans and outspoken opponents.
The controversial, self-described parental rights group is hosting its second annual convention just blocks away from the birthplace of liberty – just days before the nation celebrates its independence.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the stage as the event’s first main speaker Friday morning, bringing his presidential campaign – much of which is centered on rhetoric against what he called the “woke agenda” – to this key battleground state.
DeSantis framed his gubernatorial agenda as a blueprint for the parental rights movement, stating that Florida has “shown what winning looks like.” He touched on issues related to school choice, pronoun usage and diversity, equity and inclusion learning as part of his focus on what he called “empowering parents.”
“We’ve been actively involved in rejecting textbooks that have ideological indoctrination,” DeSantis said. “Unfortunately, you’ve seen woke in math books. Some of the social studies books were totally off the rocker.”
Speaking on the need for parents to have a voice in a school’s curriculum and what is in students’ textbooks, DeSantis said that it’s “not enough to just beat (the left) and stop them from taking over. We (must) have a positive vision of what we want things in education to be.”
He noted that teachers in Florida can receive ongoing education training to ensure they’re teaching what he called “truthful history” via materials developed by far-right organizations like the think tank Heritage Foundation and Hillsdale College, a self-described private Christian college.
There was plenty going on off-stage as well. Members of the AgendaPAC, an advocacy group focused on protecting LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, placed “Please Disturb” door hangers on hotel room doors at the Marriott in a blanketing protest. The hangers had messages like “Fascism in Progress” and “Hate Has No Place in Philly.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recently voiced opposition to the group’s “attempts to disregard history, ban books, and silence conversations about race, gender, and sexuality ... harmful to youth,” but added that the city must protect the constitutional rights of all individuals.
Several local elected officials have also spoken up against the group and Marriott’s decision to host the summit.
“MAGA Republicans are flocking to Philadelphia this weekend to rub shoulders with the same extremist group that’s crusading to ban books from schools and force politics into classrooms across the country – but that comes as no surprise considering their anti-freedom agendas are designed to cater to the MAGA base,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Sharif Street said in a statement.
DeSantis is the first of three Republican presidential candidates scheduled to speak Friday. Former South Carolina Gov. and ambassador Nikki Haley is set to speak later this morning and former President Donald Trump is expected to headline the end of the day’s events this afternoon.
Follow @harrisonlcann and @cityandstatepa for updates throughout the summit today.