Protesters pressure Toomey to denounce Trump adviser Bannon

 Protesters march through Center City demanding a $15 minimum wage. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Protesters march through Center City demanding a $15 minimum wage. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Activists are pressuring Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey to denounce Stephen Bannon, the controversial former Breitbart News executive who’ll serve as chief strategist in the Trump White House.

Throughout his re-election campaign, Republican Toomey expressed reservations about Donald Trump, but avoided saying whether he would vote for the GOP presidential nominee until one hour before polls closed on Election Day. 

Now, Toomey is keeping silent on Bannon, who was accused of publishing articles that were anti-Semitic and promoted white nationalism while he led the Breitbart website.

More than 100 protesters with IfNotNow — an organization of Jews who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank — marched to Toomey’s office in Center City Tuesday and urged him to speak up.

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“Toomey, we are asking you to decide to take a stand against white nationalism and anti-semitism,” said Rebecca Hornstein, a first year student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who said her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. “We have seen this before, and we know the most dangerous thing we could possibly do right now is to wait it out and see what happens.”

Toomey’s communications director E.R. Anderson said the senator declined to comment on the protest or on Bannon. 

“Sen. Toomey welcomes input from Pennsylvanians,” she said in an email. 

Anderson also declined to say how many calls the office has received from constituents on Bannon’s appointment. According to PhillyVoice, at least one woman from Delaware County got into a heated exchange with a Toomey staffer who said the senator had no position on it.

“There’s a quote about like, ‘silence is siding with the oppressor,'” said protester Jared Dobkin, a Jewish senior at Temple University. “If you’re silent, you’re siding with Steve Bannon, you’re siding with this open and blatant anti-Semitism in our society, and that’s unacceptable.”

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