TOWANDA TOWNSHIP — Bob Raimo, the owner of Shooter’s Gauntlet in Monroeton, hosted the Bradford County Freedom Rally Saturday at the Bradford County Airport.
The unnamed group rallied against current socio-political issues surrounding COVID-19 and the election, including state-mandated business shutdowns and Act 77, the Pennsylvania legislation passed in 2019 which allowed mail-in voting.
The gates opened at 10:30 a.m. for attendees to bring their “flags, lawn chairs, and patriotism” as Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said. Speeches ran until 2 p.m. and featured former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, attorney and former mayor of New York City via Jumbotron, Bradford County Auditor Eric Matthews, Congressional Candidate Earl Granville, and restaurant owners Rick Sherman, Matthew Foltz and Mike Mangano.
McLinko estimated just under 500 residents and representatives from local businesses in attendance throughout the day.
Raimo said that he wanted to keep the rally non-partisan rather than in favor of one presidential candidate. He noted that was a rather ambitious goal given the political nature of rallies.
Raimo painted a picture of traditional American patriotism found in Bradford County, noting the veterans’ photos proudly displayed along the streets of Athens and Sayre and the flags that line the bridge connecting Towanda and Wysox.
“We have lost patriotism in this country but I see it in Bradford County, hence why I moved here,” he said, “I think the people of Bradford County are a little bit special and a little bit different than everybody else in the state and in the country.”
He articulated that the issues that warranted the rally weren’t with Democrats or Republicans, but rather with corrupt politicians on both sides.
He criticized the Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 mitigation orders as well as all state-mandated shutdowns. Applause followed Raimo’s argument that it’s no safer to go to a large retail establishment like Walmart or Target than a small business.
“I don’t like being told when I can open and close my business,” he stated, “I do not like watching my friends – many of you know me and I know many of you – you’re business owners. Not for nothing, but if you own a hair cutting place or a salon, I’ve got to suspect that your business is essential to you and your employees, isn’t it?”
He advised residents of Bradford County to shop at Arey Building Supply in Wysox, CC Allis & Sons Inc. in Wyalusing and Croft Lumber in Sayre rather than Lowe’s.
“Stop supporting the big stores,” he said, “We’re hurting ourselves.”
Matthew Foltz and partner Mike Mangano, the “sauce fella” of Gumbas sauce and the Taste of Sicily at 132 E Main Street in Palmyra spoke about why they created E.A.T – entrepreneurs against tyranny, in response to the Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants.
They explained that they’ve been helping small restaurants that have been struggling from mandated COVID-19 restrictions across the state for free. For example, they went to Pittsburgh and visited Kimberly Waigand, owner of The Crack’d Egg in Brentwood, who has an ongoing lawsuit against Gov. Wolf.
After business at The Crack’d Egg was once again “slamming,” they thought they could do more, and began setting up meetings with business owners along with Attorney Eric Winter of Prince Law Offices, who took Gov. Wolf and the Secretary of Health to court on behalf of Taste of Sicily and won.
Foltz said that Wolf cannot mandate mask-wearing, social distancing, or occupancy, and that he only has the authority by Pennsylvania law to make a call on liquor code. Essentially, unless a restaurant is serving alcohol to underage customers or stirring up bar fights, they are “good to go” to fight the mandated COVID-19 restrictions.
“Here’s the bottom line, something that I see at work and in this country and it’s got to stop,” Mangano said, “We as Americans, you as Americans, must make sure that you know your rights. It’s no different than if you have a spiritual belief and you’re attending a congregation; if the Bible is the basis of your faith and your beliefs, if whatever the preacher is telling you is not in the Bible, then you know something is up. It’s the same thing with this tyrannical Governor. If he says or he wants to do something that is against the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitution, you have got to make sure that you know your rights and you do not have to listen.”
He advised business owners to follow his lead with beating the Wolf Administration in court and open up their businesses to 100%.
Pennsylvania is not currently one of the 20 states that can overthrow its governors or elected officials, and so the group created an online petition using a QR code that states their demands for elitist politicians:
1. Legislation that follows our Constitution and restores our freedom.
2. Legislation that allows We The People to recall the Governor, the head of the PA Senate, and the Speaker of the House.
3. Legislation that allows We The People to recall all elected officials at any time for lying, voting against the platform they ran on, or for any other reason.
4. Legislation that allows We The People to remove every PA politician, Republican and/or Democrat, who vote out of line with We The People who elected them,
5. Legislation that requires all voting for all elections to be in-person with proper ID for fair and transparent voting.
He said that although COVID-19 is a real disease and the worldwide anxiety over its infection rate is valid, Pennsylvanians – and by proxy, Americans – are obligated to practice personal responsibility rather than succumb to the tyranny of their local government.
Raimo took it a step further and urged residents to bank locally and close existing accounts with central banks after many of those corporations failed to support their clients this summer after government officials and mayors prevented law enforcement from stopping looters and rioters this summer.
“First they take you out of business, then they burn your buildings, and guess what’s happening right now? All the wealthy, all of the billionaires, and all of the big corporations and China are buying up your real estate at ten cents on the dollar and it’s got to stop,” Raimo said.
“We have to do something about it,” he continued, “It starts today, honoring all those who have died, sacrificed and served this great country to give us the freedom we have today. It is the American flag that represents who this country is as a People, and I despise anyone that wants to trample on my flag.”
Bradford County Auditor Eric Matthews’ speech on Act 77 was “critical” according to McLinko.
He spoke on “fronts” of Act 77 that Gov. Wolf has been “trampling” in recent months:
“The Governor didn’t follow Act 77. The Governor didn’t follow our election laws. He changed the deadline – he added three days to it – he accepted ballots after 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, and that’s a combined effort of the Governor and the Secretary of State. I shared with the people that there’s multiple fronts to the crisis to our Constitution but the issue is that the Constitution gives our leaders, our legislatures, our elected officials the authority to conduct their business, but they do it under the consent of the people.”
Matthews said that his goal was not to change the outcome of the 2020 election, but rather to dissect the problems with the process in order to solve those issues and restore the integrity of American elections.
“We’re frustrated,” he said, “Our leadership says nothing is happening, our Governor ignores the rule of law, and our Supreme Court doesn’t want to hear it or they side with what gives the appearance, being a politically leaning court.”
Raimo said that there will be signs made that say “Welcome to Bradford County, where Constitutional freedom lives” to be posted on every main road entering the county over the next couple of months.
He said that the efforts of the signs is to maintain a patriotic Bradford County regardless of residents’ political affiliations.
He’s been working out the technicals with the Sheriff’s Department and local government offices and that many local businesses have chipped in to help pay for the signs, including Bishop Brothers Construction, Sherwood Groves Auto Group, Flynn Energy & Propane, Flynn Beverage, the District Attorney, Hurley’s SuperMarket, and Mac Builders & Design, Inc.
He also received support from Jones Diner and American Sandwich Co. in Wyalusing, which both served refreshments at the rally.
The business side of things is expected to grow even more and this whole process just started on Wednesday.
Raimo will be organizing a second Bradford County Freedom Rally with support from more local business representatives as they join in during the spring and he already plans on having one in celebration of the Fourth of July.