Gaetz, MTG hold ‘peaceful protest’ in Calif. after ‘America First’ rally nixed for 3rd time

GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia held an impromptu “Free Speech Peaceful Protest” in Riverside, Calif., on Saturday following the third cancellation of their “America First” rallies, including one that occurred a few hours before the conservative lawmakers were to appear on stage.

Earlier in the day, the private-venue Anaheim Event Center suddenly canceled a scheduled rally featuring Greene and Gaetz, leading the lawmakers to call on their supporters to instead meet up outside the city hall building in Riverside, which the Florida Republican said “is going to be even better than we imagined.”

“The cancellations show how afraid the Left is of our message. But they can’t cancel our movement! … This is HAPPENING in SoCal!” he wrote on Twitter.

Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim, put out a contradictory statement justifying the cancellation.

“We learned of the planned relocation of this event to a private venue in our city late Friday. It is not a decision by or supported by the city of Anaheim,” Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim, said. “As a city, we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does not reflect our city and its values. We are looking into this matter this morning.”

In response, Greene called out what she saw as hypocrisy on the part of Anaheim officials, noting on Twitter that the city “does not believe freedom represents their values, but America Last communists cancel culture does.”

“The radical left can’t cancel our freedom of speech and protest against the Democrat’s communist ways!” she added. “See you there!”

The rally took place Saturday afternoon before what looked like a crowd of several hundred people. Video posted to Gaetz’s Twitter feed shows him telling the crowd that former President Donald Trump “won the last election, and he’s gonna win the next one” to cheers.

At one point, Gaetz also called out leftist “Antifa” counter-demonstrators as “pathetic losers.”

Later, Greene posted a video of the two of them trekking across Huntington Beach as many more supporters gathered in a line to cheer them.

A week ago, the Pacific Hills Banquet and Event Center in Laguna Hills, Calif., announced it canceled a scheduled “America First” rally after discovering that Gaetz and Greene were going to appear, leading the two Trump-supporting lawmakers to choose Riverside City Hall.

“As soon as we found out who the speakers were, we immediately canceled it,” Javad Mirtavoosi, the general manager of the venue told the Orange County Register. “We just thought it would be best for our facility to cancel.”

Afterward, Raincross Hospitality, a private firm that runs the Riverside Convention Center via contract from the city of Riverside, also canceled a planned rally featuring Greene and Gaetz, though officials did not provide a reason, according to reports.

“Gaetz and Greene have both become controversial figures within the GOP in recent months, with Gaetz facing accusations of having a sexual relationship with a minor and Greene being removed from her House committees over comments she made before being elected that critics said promoted far-right causes and conspiracy theories,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Greene has since apologized for some of her more controversial rhetorical and Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations against him. Thus far, no legal actions have been taken in response to the allegations and no charges have been filed.

Both were subsequently tied to plans to form a congressional caucus predicated on the notion that the U.S. was founded on Anglo-Saxon traditions, but those plans were dropped amid a public outcry and throttling from GOP members earlier this spring.

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Jon Dougherty

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