A well-known Phillies vendor called "Pistachio Girl" for her melodic hawking of peanuts and Cracker Jack at Citizens Bank Park found herself in a radically different arena this weekend -- in the middle of a violent street fracas outside a white-nationalism conference that she was attending in Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia's Emily Youcis told her Twitter followers she was "more than OK. Didn't get any flesh wounds" after an anti-fascism protester spray-painted her hair while a photographer who was with her was bloodied during the wild tussle outside the conference of the National Policy Institute. The institute has been labeled a white-supremacist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Youcis told me last night that she was at the conference as an observer but added that she's been in thrall with the so-called "alt-right" movement for about 10 months.
She called it "a white identity movement. This doesn't mean that we hate anybody — we simply want to find our own identity as Americans ... as white Americans, and find our own culture."
The Saturday afternoon fight about three blocks from the White House apparently occurred after Youcis came out of the NPI conference. She was with a photographer to interview some of about 200 marchers who were protesting the group, accusing NPI of supporting anti-Semitism, white supremacy and fascism. At one point in a lengthy video of the scene that was posted to Facebook, Youcis asks one of the demonstrators, "Do you hate white people?"
A short time later, a camera caught one of the protesters spraying Youcis hair, apparently with paint. (You can see that on this shorter video posted to Twitter.) About a minute later came the fight that was broken up by police. It left Youcis' cameraman with a bloody gash on his forehead.
"These people — the protesters, the (anti-fascists) who sprayed me with spray paint and beat the crap out of my photographer ... they claim to be for peace and love and they claim to be against violence but I was hurt trying to talk to them," Youcis told me last night. "They are the ones who are violent."
Last night, David Duke -- the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan turned right-wing politician -- tweeted approvingly of Youcis' actions in the nation's capital, writing atop a video of the brawl: "In the current year, if you're White and don't wake-up hating yourself for it -> NAZI!" Youcis retweeted Duke's posting. Her Twitter account follows a number of so-called "alt-right" accounts such as the group Fight White Genocide.
Youcis' involvement with the NPI was clearly part of an evolution. This summer, Philadelphia Magazine -- writing about a bizarre confrontation in New York between Youcis and Nick Denton, publisher of the controversial and now defunct website Gawker -- wrote that "Youcis has been re-branded as a Trump supporter." She recorded an interview video that ran on the popular far-right Breitbart website, interviewing liberal protesters in Philadelphia for July's Democratic National Convention, entitled "Trump Girl Trolls #DemExit Protesters." The magazine said she was wearing a hat at Citizens Bank Park: "Make the Phillies Great Again."
Today, Trump is heading to the White House as president-elect and the publisher of white-nationalism haven Breitbart -- Steve Bannon -- is coming along as Trump's chief strategist. This weekend's violent clash in D.C. seemed to capture the zeitgeist of an increasing on-edge nation, with protesters worried about authoritarian government and the influence of white nationalist like Bannon, as well as fringe groups like NPI.
Youcis said she used to feel what she called "white guilt" but no longer. "White Americans have been vilified in the media. We want to stand up for white America — we're the backbone of this country, the white working-class people."
It's certainly been a long, strange trip for Youcis, 26, whose entertaining wail in the stands at the Phillies' ballpark led to write-ups in the early 2010s in the Inquirer and the Daily News, which called her "a fan favorite." The Inquirer said that for Youcis, who was finishing her studies at Temple's Tyler School of Art when she started hawking pistachios for the Phillies' vendor Aramark, "The game is merely the backdrop to her own theater each night."