Pa. gov website listing to burn ‘Trump 2024 flag’ actually isn’t unusual

State officials said all publicly approved demonstrations appear in the online calendar.

A mural by Michelle Angela Ortiz on the Capitol steps in 2018

A mural by Michelle Angela Ortiz on the Capitol steps in 2018

Sarah Anne Hughes / Billy Penn
maxmarin-byline

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


An anti-Trump demonstration organized by a Pennsylvania activist who burns campaign flags has drawn ire from conservatives after it appeared on a state government calendar for public events. Officials say there’s nothing unusual about the listing.

Scheduled for Jan. 5, the event listed on the Pa. Department of General Services website bills itself as “press conference against trump [sic] and burning a trump 2024 flag in a fire safe container.”

Billy Penn confirmed the event is organized by Gene Stilp, 70, a self-described anti-Trump activist whose campaign flag-burning events have garnered criticism from Pa. Republicans in the past.

Troy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Dept. of General Services, said the government advertises all public events at Harrisburg’s Capitol Complex that have been approved through an application process.

“It doesn’t matter what your political philosophy is,” Thompson said. “We can’t prohibit it.”

White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have held legal demonstrations at the Capitol building in the past.

antitrump-capitolcomplex-flagburning-event
Screenshot / Pa. Dept. of General Services

The flag-burning event will take place in Soldiers’ Grove behind the Capitol building at the same time as a pro-Trump protest on the Capitol steps, which is also advertised on the same public listing website, Thompson noted.

The calendar page includes a link to an application that can be filled out by anyone who wants to host an event there.

Though not connected to any elected or government official, the listing has nonetheless drawn partisan criticism from conservatives on social media and in the right-wing press. Thompson said the department has received phone calls with complaints.

The listing does not include a prominent disclaimer that such events are not endorsed by the state government, nor does it include who organized the event. Thompson noted that it’s something they might look into going forward.

“Up to this point it’s been understood that these are public individuals or groups,” he said.

The office does not promote any of the events beyond the calendar page, Thompson added.

Stilp, the event organizer, could not be reached for comment.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn story

Find everything you need to know about Philly, every day — in clear, direct language, like a good friend might say.

No clickbait, no cliffhangers: the Billy Penn morning newsletter.

Thanks for supporting Billy Penn!

Test your local knowledge — join us for the next Philly Quizzo virtual event, or take the quiz online.

Lock in your support

Reader support powers our local pandemic reporting. A monthly membership helps lock it in.

Can we count on you as a Billy Penn sustainer?