A Republican prosecutor in central Pennsylvania has lost the support of his local party after writing a public letter in support of Black Lives Matter and calling on fellow Republicans to vote against President Donald Trump.
Matt Fogal, Franklin County’s district attorney since 2009, wrote in early June about how protests in Chambersburg had prompted him to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He said in an interview with The Inquirer that he wrote the letter because he felt an obligation to show “what side of history” he was on.
“This is an unprecedented time, and I wanted to make sure those I serve here know what side of history I’m on in this moment, and where I encourage them to be,” he said at the time.
In a response letter published over the weekend by a local conservative blogger, the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party said it was formally censuring Fogal and would not support him for reelection in 2023 or for any public office. The chair, Allen B. Coffman, called Black Lives Matter a “radical and violent movement.”
“You also stated that ‘all lives matter’ was wrong and part of the problem,” Coffman wrote. “We strongly disagree with your view. There is no more inclusive statement than ‘all lives matter.’”
Coffman’s letter misleads when it conflates the worldwide protest movement known as Black Lives Matter with a loosely organized activist organization of the same name, calling it “a self-admitted Marxist revolutionary group dedicated to the dissolution of America, its heritage and its culture, including the nuclear family.”
The broad Black Lives Matter movement is focused primarily on anti-Black racism, particularly in policing. The movement has drawn millions of Americans into the streets in protest and has widespread public support, according to polls.
Fogal declined to comment Monday. The Franklin County GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Black Lives Matter. Period. Full stop,” Fogal wrote in his June letter, which was published in several local newspapers and shared widely on social media. “I confess, when I first heard the phrase, my immediate reaction was that ‘All Lives Matter.’ I was wrong and part of the problem.”
He also called on the GOP to ditch Trump. “For my fellow Republicans, I encourage you to exhibit political courage and never put the party before the country or conscience,” he wrote. “In Union There Is Strength.”
Fogal met with the party’s executive committee earlier this month about his comments, but the censure letter said the meeting “only served to reinforce our concerns that you have departed from the sensible conservative views of the vast majority of your fellow citizens.”
The censure letter also noted interviews Fogal gave to The Inquirer and the New York Times. “These papers do not reflect the views of conservative Republicans nor are they a local paper of record,” Coffman wrote.
Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 2-1 in Franklin County. The county supported Trump with 72% of the vote in 2016. Chambersburg, the county seat, was one of several small Pennsylvania towns where demonstrations were held after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In Pennsylvania, there were protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in at least 56 of the state’s 67 counties. Of the towns in those counties that saw demonstrations, at least 40 were ones Trump won in 2016.
Fogal, an independent turned Republican, would be up for reelection to what would be his fourth term in 2023. He is a member of the Army National Guard who responded to Hurricane Katrina, and was deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan.