Police arrested 11 protesters in front of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s Philadelphia office Tuesday. They were part of a larger crowd of 300 who called for Toomey, a Republican, to oppose some of President Trump’s policies.
The 11 arrested made it inside the 8 Penn Center building and staged a sit-in in the lobby.
Those inside were zip-tied and escorted out by police around 1 p.m. as a group of supporters sang, “Courage brother, you do not walk alone. We shall walk with you and sing your spirit home.”
According to Toomey’s office, the protesters were told as the weekly demonstration commenced that the senator was in Washington, D.C., and his staff was unable to meet with them.
The arrests followed several police requests for the protesters to leave their sit-in in the lobby of the privately owned building, said Steve Kelly, Toomey’s spokesman.
“Sen. Toomey believes that civility is a necessary part of a productive conversation,” Kelly said. “He does not support the actions of the protesters today who disobeyed the lawful requests from the Philadelphia Police Department.”
The weekly protests, known as “Tuesdays with Toomey,” began, organizers said, because Toomey has never held a town hall meeting in Philadelphia — and his last in-person town hall in Pennsylvania was in 2013. Toomey instead has opted for telephone town-halls where he gets screened questions. The most recent was announced on Facebook just two hours before it was due to begin.
Terry Baraldi, 70, of Lansdowne has been present every Tuesday for five weeks, watching the gatherings grow to 400 or 500 protesters. But the senator, she said, has ignored them.
“They wonder why people that finally get to a town hall are so angry,” Baraldi said. “If they had the town halls back when they should have had the town halls, nobody would be angry. We would have been satisfied— maybe not with the answers, but at least that we were able to communicate with our elected official.”
Last week, Toomey sat down with members of Tuesday with Toomey protesters in Harrisburg, but there is still no news on whether he’ll meet personally with a large number of constituents.
Paige Wolf, 37, is one of the dozens of organizers behind Tuesdays with Toomey in Philadelphia. Since the telephone town hall, when Toomey promised to answer questions via social media and reach out to constituents more actively, Wolf claimed nothing has changed.
“Our demand is very simple, and it is that we want a town hall in the Philadelphia area, and we want that scheduled today,” Wolf said. “The so-called telephone town hall that happened at the last minute is not an adequate substitute.”
Wednesday, Toomey’s office will move to its new location in the U.S. Custom House in Old City at 200 Chestnut St.
Not missing a step, protesters plan to throw him an “office-warming party” Wednesday at noon outside of his new office.
Wolf said no one is yet sure if the change of office will affect the protesters’ accessibility to the office, security or otherwise.
“At this point,” she said, “we are just really trying to escalate our message.”
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to include an official comment from U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s office.
Correction: Paige Wolf’s quotation was corrected to reflect that she was hoping a town hall would be scheduled immediately.