Polarizing Debate Between Libertarian Activists Ignites Boycott

Threats of violent protest leading up to Pennsylvania’s first Liberty Festival on April 1 compel organizers to move their entire agenda to an undisclosed location.

“I am one hundred percent resolved now, and any idea that I might have had about falling sick or not attending for any reason, that is now impossible,” said Augustus Sol Invictus, Publisher of The Revolutionary Conservative. “I don’t care if I have goddamn pneumonia, I will be there now.”

He was initially invited by organizers to give a speech about unity at the Mid-Atlantic Liberty Festival (MALF), he said. “I was to discuss how we should all ally our different camps against our common enemy, forget our petty differences, and work together.” The debate with Will Coley was later masterminded by MALF, he added. Will Coley was a 2016 Libertarian Party Candidate for Vice President and a harsh critic of Invictus during his 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate in Florida.

“Coley was one of the people calling me a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘neo-Nazi’ during my Senate campaign and thereafter,” said Invictus. “Everything he said about me was slander, and I want to challenge him in public.”

Last week, only a week out from the event, organizers received multiple inquiries from the Hilton Harrisburg concerning the event’s focal point: the Invictus vs. Coley Immigration Debate, said Steve Scheetz, co-organizer of MALF. Over concern of potential violence, he said the Hilton at first suggested either removing the 90-minute debate off-site or moving the debate from the middle of the afternoon to first thing in the morning. Ultimately, both parties agreed to cancel the contract altogether, he said begrudgingly.

“I don’t want there to be any problems for them,” said Scheetz, who is former Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. “The plan is to confirm new venue, and whoever the new venue is, we will buffer them from being harassed.” The Hilton had received multiple violent threats from the splinter-celled group known as Antifa, he said.

“They had heard some really bad reports about Augustus,” he continued. “A lot of people at the hotel had been asking about him, but after doing research for themselves they had discovered Augustus wasn’t a horrible human being, after all.” The Hilton wanted to “pull the plug” regardless, he said.

Invictus, who studied International and Comparative Law at DePaul University College of Law, said he was sure the Hilton saw the writing on the wall. “They realized they were going to get exactly what happened with Trump, Milo and others.” Although the news media may not be calling the violent protesters plaguing other public figures – Antifa – Antifa it is, he said. (Read the full transcript of Invictus’ response to the Antifa boycott here.)

Earlier this month, Invictus issued a public letter charging that the Chairman of the National Libertarian Party, Nicholas J. Sarwark, failed to condemn Antifa for its violent attacks. “He still has not said a word, to my knowledge, about calling out Antifa for shutting down Milo, and now he still has not said anything, to my knowledge, that this event was almost shut down by Antifa.” Incidentally, Sarwark is an invited speaker at MALF, as well, said Invictus.

“The Antifa dogged my campaign all year last year,” he said. “Beginning with an event we had in Portland where they physically attacked my people, to an event in Vancouver where they poured urine over the head of a woman that showed-up, Antifa have attended my speeches with violence.”

Char-Lez Braden, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, said he received a phone call from Hilton Security last Thursday inquiring whether Invictus was in any way associated with Nazis. “I told him, to the best of my knowledge, Augustus has never done anything or is doing anything associated with anything Nazi.” He told them, the only association that could be related to Nazis is when Invictus, as a criminal defense attorney, represented defendants who were accused of being Nazis, he said. “They were okay with that.”

Hilton Security also inquired whether Invictus has a criminal background, he added. “I told them that I have never conducted a criminal background check, but since Augustus is currently a lawyer, there’s probably not too much of a criminal background.” The security representative agreed, said Braden.

Ryan Ramsey, who is an Editor at The Revolutionary Conservative, said, “The first time I heard about the debate was when I starting seeing people on Facebook deride organizers. When that didn’t work, they turned their derision towards Will Coley. That didn’t work. They started to threaten violence. That didn’t work. Then they tried to boycott. When that didn’t work, they called in threats.” These are the kinds of tactics, he has seen from the Antifa group for over 20 years, he said.

“There is nothing anti-fascist about suppressing someone’s free speech,” said Ramsey, who is an Executive Committee member of the Libertarian Party of Florida. “The ultimate way to conduct civil discourse is by public debate.”

Scheetz, who is also Treasurer of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, said, “I invited speakers from all over the political spectrum, to come together and celebrate unity.” Speakers will be coming from all over the country to attend MALF, including Austin Petersen, Larry Sharpe, and Darryl Perry, all LP Presidential Candidates in 2016. “The best possible outcome for MALF is that everyone is cool, all the people who said they wanted to come – come, all the speakers – come, and we have a really awesome event.”

Despite the ad-hominem attacks, the boycotts, the violent threats, Invictus said, “There is absolutely no lowering of morale, this has strengthened everyone’s resolve.”

Raquel Okyay