A mural by Michelle Angela Ortiz on the Capitol steps in 2018 Credit: Sarah Anne Hughes / Billy Penn

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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.

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.

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...