By Michael Yoder
With arms raised and clear, cheering voices, a passionate audience Saturday night applauded the premiere of a film highlighting the rise of the patriot movement over the last year.
More than 1,000 people turned out to Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, for the first public showing of “The Return of the American Patriot: The Rise of Pennsylvania.” The hour-long film documents individuals and groups in the state who spoke out and fought against COVID-19 protocols instituted by government leaders like Gov. Tom Wolf, including mask mandates and the closing of businesses.
Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor who is prominently featured in the film, was on hand at the premiere, speaking with his wife, Rebecca, by his side. Mastriano highlighted people in the room at the church who were also featured in the movie, saying they were friends “brought together through hard times and dark times over the past several years.”
Mastriano also spoke about the efforts by left-wing activists to cancel the premiere of the movie, first targeting Penn Cinema in Lititz with a boycott campaign and later Wyndham Lancaster Resort and Convention Center in East Lampeter Township. He said the audience who came Saturday to see the film were “standing against the hate, intolerance, and bigotry from the left.”
“If they just take time to get to know us instead of demonizing us here, I think we could walk away with a friendly debate or maybe not even debate at all – just agree to disagree,” Mastriano said. “Live and let live and just chill the heck out.”
Mastriano said conservatives are willing to debate people with differing viewpoints, but the left resorts to labeling those who disagree with them with titles like “Christian nationalist.”
“They want to label us, but don’t embrace the labels,” Mastriano said. “Looking around the room here, we have Anabaptists, we have former soldiers, we have businesspeople, we have homemakers, and we have people that stretch the gamut of life. We don’t all look alike; we don’t all believe the same thing here. But we’re standing in common cause and our love for our country and our freedoms. And we want Pennsylvania and America to be a little bit better than how we have it right now.”
Activists on social media spent more than a week attacking the film despite its only online presence being a two-minute-long trailer on YouTube. Event pages were created on Facebook to organize protest at the premiere.
A total of 10 protesters were witnessed standing at the entrance to church parking lot on Old State Hill Road, all wearing masks outside. The small group held signs reading “Jesus was a leftist,” “Doug Mastriano for prison” and “Hail Satan – boo Mastriano.”
Steve Turley, a conservative podcaster, author and scholar and the founder of Turley Talks, the producer of “The Return of the American Patriot,” said the few protesters outside the premiere and the social media activists had done all they could to try to intimidate the leaders of Christ Community Church to cancel the film.
“Have you ever seen a group of people so freaked out about a movie they haven’t seen?” Turley asked the audience. “It’s worse than book burners. They’re burning books they haven’t read.”
Turley said the small turnout of protesters was a representation of the weakness of the ideas of the left, and he admonished businesses like Penn Cinema and Wyndham Lancaster for bowing to the pressure of mobs.
“As it turns out, their bark is always worse than their bite,” Turley said to the audience. “I wish more business owners recognized that this is what they should be coveting, not selling out to the woke, privileged few. They should be coveting you as their customers, given your loyalty through fidelity to community, faith, family and freedom.”
Staff writer Michael Yoder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @YoderReports on Twitter.