During a chaotic day in the state Capitol on May 22, almost two dozen individuals were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct following multiple incidents of protest for state government reforms.
Twenty-three members of March on Harrisburg, a self-identified non-partisan volunteer group, were arrested, charged, arraigned and released for summary offenses related to their protests.
Traveling from Philadelphia, the group is visiting the Capitol to demand action on bills to implement a political gift ban, establish automatic voter registration and end what they call “gerrymandered” redistricting.
The first day of their three-day civil disobedience effort targeted state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who chairs the House State Government Committee. A bill, House Bill 39, to ban political gifts between lobbyists and lawmakers sits in his committee, and the reform advocates say he’s been unresponsive and unwilling to speak with them about the legislation or call it up for consideration in committee.
The protesters have spoken to more than 200 lawmakers about the legislation and believe it has enough legislative and public support to pass.
In an effort to encourage Metcalfe to bring up the bill, they gathered outside of his office in the morning, chanting and blocking his entrance. Capitol Police were staked outside during the protest.
Some demonstrators managed to enter the State Government Committee’s scheduled hearing where they were dragged out by police as they linked arms and sang. Others were arrested outside of the hearing room.
In response to what he called “disruptions,” Metcalfe said he was not threatened or bullied by their behavior.
“I think it’s a shift in our culture now where some people think that it’s okay to be uncivil and disrespectful to try and get their way,” said Metcalfe. “If you really want to advocate for change and advocate for a piece of legislation, the proper way to advocate for it is in a respectful manner and a manner that isn’t going to get you taken into custody.”
He added: “The anarchists and the Left really think they’re going to force their will on the American people and Pennsylvanians by being civilly disobedient to the point of violating their neighbors’ rights, even violating the rights of other citizens to enter the offices of their representatives….that’s not the way to advocate for legislation or a proposal or policy change. It discredits the issue.”
Metcalfe wouldn’t divulge whether he supports or opposes the ban, but said House Bill 39 isn’t a top priority for him at this time.
The protesters were issued non-traffic citations and warnings to not return to the state Capitol Building for the duration of their protests or risk arrest for trespassing. They plan to return tomorrow and Wednesday to continue their efforts.