Hershey brew pub cancels GOP candidate's event with Proud Boys chair

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Republican Bobby Jeffries, of Hershey, talks about his candidacy for U.S. Congress in York City, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Jeffries would run against current U.S. Rep. Scott Perry in the 2020 primary election. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A Hershey brew pub has canceled a pro-President Donald Trump, pro-Roger Stone Christmas party after complaints about a speaker who chairs an alleged extremist group.

Anthony Pasquini, the general manager of Rotunda Brew Pub, on Monday, Dec. 9, confirmed the pub canceled the event hosted in part by Bobby Jeffries, a Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Perry in 2020.

The cancellation comes after The York Dispatch last week reported that Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, would be speaking at the event. The organization is labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation Tarrio disputes.

More:Perry challenger Jeffries hosting Christmas party with chair of alleged hate group

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The brew pub's owners were not aware until this past weekend that Jeffries was a congressional candidate, nor did they know that speakers would be present, Pasquini added.

It wasn't until Jeffries' campaign gave more details this past weekend — and complaints from locals flowed in about the Proud Boys chairman's speaker role — that they decided to cancel the event.

The ideologies of such speakers were especially troublesome because of the establishment's respect for Hershey's immigrant community, Pasquini said.

Jeffries in a Monday statement said there was no bad blood between his campaign and the brew pub, and he blamed the owners' decision on threats he claimed they received.

However, Pasquini denied ever receiving threats. The business only received calls and emails from concerned locals, he said.

Jeffries first announced the "America First Xmas Bash" on Thursday, Dec. 5. His campaign sponsored the event along with the organizations Demand Free Speech and "Rally with Roger," a pro-Roger Stone advocacy group.

The Proud Boys was created by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes in 2016. The group has been accused of neo-fascist ideologies, violence and promoting fear about the destruction of Western culture.

McInnes in February filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center's description of the organization, a case that has yet to be decided.

Tarrio, a first-generation Afro-Cuban immigrant, on Friday dismissed the center's findings. He asserted "they have no official standing with anybody" and that labeling the organization as white nationalist is untrue and problematic.

But at least one other organization that tracks hate groups agrees with the SPLC. The Anti-Defamation League has said the Proud Boys has white supremacist ties and "is overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic."

More:GOP challenger says Perry isn't pro-Trump enough

The Proud Boys has made national headlines on more than one occasion over the years, often involving violent altercations with leftist counter-protesters.

Some events include those sponsored by white supremacists, such as the "Unite the Right" rally in June 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Proud Boys was one of several entities named in a May 2019 lawsuit by Bill Burke, who was seriously injured in the infamous car attack that followed the event. 

Jeffries' campaign has rescheduled the event at a different location, he said Monday. The new location will be released to registered guests, and the venue will have increased security. 

Other speakers set to attend include Danielle Stella, who last month was banned from Twitter after suggesting U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., should be hanged if a conspiracy theory alleging she committed treason was true.

Stella is challenging Omar in 2020.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.