The March on Harrisburg 2019 ended on Monday, and after ten days of nonviolent civil disobedience, the democracy warriors of MOH made great progress on the Gift Ban. The marchers set off from Thomas Paine Plaza in Philadelphia on a sunny Saturday morning. They marched between ten and eighteen miles daily, flyering for their cause along the route. They participated in the May Day protest for a $15 minimum wage in Reading. Generous volunteers from across Pennsylvania fed and sheltered marchers. Activists bonded over group breakfasts, sign-making, guided meditation, and even a few rounds of bowling. Before they knew it, the marchers had reached Harrisburg.
The March culminated in a two-part demonstration at the State House on Monday, May 6th. Activists sat outside the East Wing entrance of the building with bills marked “BRIBE” covering their mouths and a banner reading “$$ Silences Us.” Chants against bribery and urging the passage of HB1291 rang among the crowd.
“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,” said Rabbi Michael Pollack, a co-founder of the March on Harrisburg. “We must pass HB1291: Gift Ban and make bribery illegal so that our public servants can serve the people.” Pollack was one of the twelve people arrested during the first portion of the demonstration.
Eight demonstrators then took their protest into the balcony above the House Session as it began. They unfurled a banner reading “Some are guilty; all are responsible. Pass the Gift Ban Now!” and showered legislators with $1 bills labeled “BRIBE” while chanting “Pass the Gift Ban” and “Money Out, People In.” All eight demonstrators were arrested, but not in vain.
The March and the demonstration scored a major victory: they were successful in convincing House Speaker Mike Turzai (R – Allegheney) to co-sponsor the bill. But their work is not yet done. They encourage Pennsylvanians to call their representatives and Minority Leader Frank Dermody to gain their support for HB1291. The Gift Ban is coming to PA, and we have these democracy warriors to thank!