Our Actions Forced Speaker Turzai to Co-Sponsor HB 1291!

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After marching 110-miles from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, on Monday, May 6, MarchOnHarrisburg organized two nonviolent direct actions at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, demanding action on HB 1291: Gift Ban for Public Officials. MarchOnHarrisburg has been advocating for the Gift Ban for the past two years. Through dozens of Citizen Lobbying Days, we have worked closely with Representative Tina M. Davis and Rep. Thomas Murt to introduce the bipartisan, common sense Gift Ban, which would make it illegal for lobbyists to bribe Pennsylvania legislators with gifts like cars, vacations and fancy meals.

In total, 20 activists were arrested at the State Capitol for protesting. MarchOnHarrisburg Executive Director, Rabbi Michael Pollack was arrested with 11 others for blocking the East Wing entrance into the Capitol, with dollar bills marked “Bribe” taped over their mouths. Activists from above the sit-in dropped a banner which read, “$$ Silences Us.”

Rabbi Michael Pollack, before blocking the East Wing Capitol entrance with 11 other activists.

Rabbi Michael Pollack, before blocking the East Wing Capitol entrance with 11 other activists.

“Our legislators cannot serve both money and people. As long as money is speech and bribery is legal, the voice of the people will not be heard. We must pass HB 1291: Gift Ban and make bribery illegal so that our public servants can serve the people,” said Rabbi Michael Pollack before being arrested.

Carol Stowell, MoH York Chapter Leader, being arrested after interrupting House Session. Photo credit: AP

Carol Stowell, MoH York Chapter Leader, being arrested after interrupting House Session. Photo credit: AP

After the outdoor action, eight activists with MarchOnHarrisburg shut down Pennsylvania House Session immediately after it was gaveled in. They chanted “Pass the Gift Ban, and Money Out People In”,  flooded the House with 500 one-dollar bills, and dropped a banner that read “Some are guilty; all are responsible. Pass the Gift Ban Now!”

Speaker Turzai speaking with MoH organizers after the sit-in, blocking East Wing Entrance. The Speaker told those gathered: “I’m in favor of a gift ban.”

Speaker Turzai speaking with MoH organizers after the sit-in, blocking East Wing Entrance. The Speaker told those gathered: “I’m in favor of a gift ban.”

Immediately after the day’s actions, Speaker Turzai told the protestors that he supports a gift ban, and followed up his statement by co-sponsoring HB 1291: Gift Ban for Public Officials.

Speaker Turzai’s actions today shows the power of nonviolent civil disobedience to force action from our legislators. While we are pleased that Speaker Turzai has gone on record supporting HB 1291, if a Gift Ban does not pass into law this session, his co-sponsorship would become yet another example of the hypocrisy of Harrisburg. We will hold Turzai to his timeline on passing a Gift Ban and we will continue to pressure Minority Leader Frank Dermody to co-sponsor HB 1291 and be a leader for House Democrats.
— Emmie DiCicco - March on Harrisburg.

We will continue to keep the pressure on Representative Everett for a vote in State Government Committee and the State Legislature to pass a Gift Ban, this session!

We will not quit until we pass a Gift Ban in Pennsylvania!

Rachel Murphy