Even after being flagged on ticketing platform Eventbrite for encouraging passengers to bring concealed weapons to Washington D.C., a Pennsylvania man who organized a caravan to the Jan. 6 rally — and died during the riot on Capitol Hill — was allowed to continue selling tickets through the service, new reporting finds.
Fifty-year-old web developer and Trump-themed toy-maker Ben Philips was one of several Trump supporters offering paid transportation services to rallies contesting the election, despite a ban by Eventbrite enacted in November on listing events that promote “harmful misinformation,” as Billboard reported last week. Philips had sold more than 70 tickets at $25 each for rides aboard a chartered bus and van from Bloomsburg and Harrisburg, Pa, to the Jan. 6 March for Trump.
Philips’ Eventbrite post originally welcomed passengers carrying concealed weapons or “whatever makes you feel safe,” but removed that language after learning it had been flagged and reported as dangerous. A group of Reddit users from the ParlerWatch subreddit dedicated to monitoring extremists on the right-leaning Parler social media platform first brought attention to the post and filed multiple complaints using Eventbrite’s reporting tool.
Carrying a concealed weapon in Washington D.C. requires a local license and the city does not have any reciprocity agreement with other states and prohibits the carrying of any firearm at the National Mall, where the rally was being staged. Furthermore, it’s illegal to transport loaded guns or concealed weapons through D.C., potentially exposing Philips to criminal liability had his group been stopped and searched.
“We received a heads-up from one of our wonderful patriots today letting us know that we are under attack by leftists complaining that we’re bringing firearms to DC to cause trouble and because of that they are trying to get us cancelled on Eventbrite,” Philips posted Jan. 5 on the listing, according to archival records captured by the Internet Archive. “If for any reason Eventbrite takes down our events due to leftists complaining, please note that NOTHING IS BEING CANCELLED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!”
The listing was not, however, taken down. And despite multiple warnings that Eventbrite received about the post — and subsequent news coverage of Philips’ death after suffering a stroke on the steps of the U.S. Capitol — the listing remained on the site until Jan. 12. Eventbrite has acknowledged that Philips’ post violated community standards, but declined to answer questions related to how it responded to warnings about Philips inviting guests to bring weapons to D.C.
“What took place on January 6th at the Capitol was devastating, and we have nothing to add to your story. We respectfully decline to comment further,” an Eventbrite spokesperson told Billboard Tuesday.
Philips wasn’t the only Trump supporter using Eventbrite to organize transportation to the Jan. 6 rally-turned-riot who had been previously flagged by several media outlets about potentially illegal behavior. Reggie Skyrock and Ashley Weiss, a couple operating as Skyrock Patriots, sold more than 400 bus tickets to the Jan. 6 rally after selling 100 tickets for bus rides to “Trump’s 2024 Inauguration.” Eventbrite had been contacted in late December by Orlando Weekly asking about the “scam” and “brazen cash grab.” Instead of expelling Skyrock Patriots from the site, Eventbrite allowed the company to sell $20,000 worth of bus tickets to the Jan. 6 rally.
Company officials have since confirmed to Billboard that Skyrock Patriots and Philips’ postings for the Jan. 6 rally were a violation of company rules, but didn’t offer any explanation why the posts weren’t taken down.