BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — One of the four fatalities at Wednesday’s historic insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was from our area who founded a right-wing social media site.
When Eyewitness News asked locals in Bloomsburg if they knew Ben Philips, everyone said something to the affect of “oh yes the Trumparoo guy!” Eyewitness News learned he was quite a notable character in this town.
He was known for selling plush kangaroos dressed like the president and being a vocal Trump supporter. Locals are shocked and saddened by his death.
Posts on trumparoo.com retrace Ben Philips’ steps in the days leading up to the riots on Wednesday, rom Bloomsburg to Washington D.C where he died as trump supporters violently occupied the U.S. Capitol.
D.C police say 50-year-old Philips died of a “medical emergency” as protest escalated into violence at the capitol.
“It’s insane that anyone died. No one should have died. But the fact that it was someone here in our town is just mind-boggling to me,” neighbor Jessica Klaus said.
Philips was a web developer and founded Trumparoo, a pro-Trump social media site. He coordinated transportation to bring dozens of supporters from Bloomsburg to the rally.
According to updates posted to his website and the event page, this is where the group got on the bus early Wednesday morning to head to D.C.
According to the AP, members of his group told the Inquirer they last saw Philips around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, and he did not show up to meet them for a 6 p.m. departure. They learned from police that he died.
Philips was from Ringtown, Schuylkill County but lived in Bloomsburg where he made a name for himself in the community.
“He always seemed like a friendly guy. He’d smile and wave even if we didn’t talk to each other. He would just drive around with his car that had the little Trumparoo and the little flags on it, the little sticker in the window,” Klaus said.
He organized a small “Stop the Steal” rally on Main Street after the election. Nick McGaw was used to seeing Philips’ infamous Trumparoo truck parked outside his store downtown.
“My store (Endless Records) is across from the Democratic headquarters so I think he liked to annoy those guys. Which we have freedom of speech in this country, you can do that sort of thing. It’s not a big deal but it’s sad. It’s sad for everybody I think. It’s sad for the country,” McGaw said.
Flash grenades and tear gas were used during the mayhem at the Capitol. It’s unclear whether Philips was part of the group that breeched the Capitol building on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s events were driven by an ill-advised belief that the election was stolen. This has been dispelled by election officials as well as President Trump’s own former attorney general.
All states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by both Republican and Democratic officials.
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