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Community Action

Monday, December 4, 2017

Protesters block entrance to Sen. Pat Toomey’s Pittsburgh office, hope to inspire more action against proposed tax bill

Posted By on Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:26 PM

Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh - PHOTO COURTESY OF IKE GITTLEN
  • Photo courtesy of Ike Gittlen
  • Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh
In 2017, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) has had a consistent record of ignoring the requests of thousands of protesters. The senator has met with a few members of Tuesdays with Toomey, a left-leaning group organized in late 2016, and Toomey has held some highly-restrictive tele town hall meetings, but constituents upset with Toomey’s choices told City Paper in September that they have grown tired of trying to persuade him of altering his votes and stances.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pittsburgh's North Hills constituents worry GOP tax plan could hurt 12th District senior citizens

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29.
Protesters in Pittsburgh’s North Hills are begging for their fellow residents to pay attention to the details of what is in store if the Republicans’ tax-reform bill passes and is signed into law.

“With the demographics that live in [Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District], almost no one will benefit from this plan,” said Stacey Vernallis, of left-leaning grassroots group PA 12 for Progress, at a Nov. 29 protest in Ross. About 20 other protesters joined Vernallis outside of the office of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) to protest the the proposed tax bill.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Protesters gather in Pittsburgh area and Washington, D.C. to defend DACA

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 5:33 PM

Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONICA RUIZ
  • Photo courtesy of Monica Ruiz
  • Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 5, about 60 people took a bus from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). One of them was Monica Ruiz, an organizer with Latino-rights organization Casa San Jose.

In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper on Sept. 6, Ruiz said it was an emotional day for the travelers, who were comprised primarily of Latino DACA recipients and their families and friends.

“It was very emotional, many were crying and their parents were crying,” said Ruiz. “For one parent, it was the first time she heard her son talk about his future and his dreams.”

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hundreds of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's constituents hold town hall without their representative

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:18 PM

More than 200 consituents fill the Bethel Park Community Center at a town hall event without Rep. Tim Murphy. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • More than 200 consituents fill the Bethel Park Community Center at a town hall event without Rep. Tim Murphy.
Ever since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) has been hearing it from many of his constituents. Groups like Mondays With Murphy and 412 Resistance have formed, both with the goal of meeting with Murphy and sharing their views, many of which run counter to what the Republican lawmaker supports.

For weeks, constituents have flooded his office with calls and protested outside his Greensburg and Mount Lebanon offices. A group of six constituents even tried to speak to him at a talk he held at Duquesne University, but Murphy cancelled that event at the last second to dodge their questions.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Constituents call for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy to support investigation into Trump ties to Russia

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Consituents rally in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's Mount Lebanon office. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MYKIE REIDY
  • Photo courtesy of Mykie Reidy
  • Consituents rally in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's Mount Lebanon office.
On April 3 around noon, more than two dozen constituents rallied outside U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy’s office in Mount Lebanon, calling for Murphy to support an independent investigation into President Donald Trump and his possible ties to Russia. The group calls themselves “Mondays With Murphy,” and they have been requesting meetings with Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) and demonstrating in front of his Mount Lebanon and Greensburg offices for weeks. (Murphy even went as far as cancelling an event at Duquesne University to avoid answering questions from a small group of constituents in February.)

On March 20, FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), is also investigating the president, but Nunes has been criticized for allegedly meeting with White House officials on March 21, without notifying his committee. (The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating.)

Because of the confusion around Nunes' actions, many — both Democrats and Republicans — have been calling for an independent investigation into the Russian matter, not just one carried out by members of Congress. Mykie Reidy, of Mondays With Murphy, agrees.

“It’s clear that Devin Nunes has conflicting loyalties and cannot conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the Trump campaign’s entanglements with Russia,” said Reidy in a press release. “A number of Republicans in Congress have publicly acknowledged that fact; we would like Congressman Murphy to be among them.”

Carly Atchison, press secretary for Murphy, didn’t return request for comment for this story.

Murphy has been relatively quiet on the Trump-Russia front. In a February story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned after it was revealed that he held undisclosed meetings with Russian officials during Trump's campaign, Murphy’s office said in a statement: “Congressman Murphy believes General Flynn made the right decision to resign.”

Murphy hasn't made any other public statement since about Trump and Russia. That is not good enough for Reidy and other Mondays With Murphy participants. They are circulating a petition asking Murphy to make a public statement in support of an independent investigation. The group is also still waiting to get a face-to-face meeting with Murphy.

Reidy says that two Murphy staffers came out to address the group during the April 3 rally, but none of them promised the group that they could speak with their representative.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

‘Yinzers Against Jagoffs’ PAC forms demanding more accessibility from U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 4:53 PM

Darwin Leuba (right) says U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is a chicken for not holding a town hall. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Darwin Leuba (right) says U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is a chicken for not holding a town hall.
Constituents of U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) are done politely requesting a town hall with their representative. Now, they are moving to draw attention to the fact Rothfus has never held a town hall during his entire six-year tenure representing Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district.

And one constituent is gathering attention in a very unique way: by donning a chicken costume.

Darwin Leuba is an 18-year-old resident of O’Hara Township. On March 18, Leuba stood outside Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland in full fowl-garb, greeting visitors to the health-care-related town hall of Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills).

“Rothfus is definitely a chicken for never hosting a town hall,” says Leuba. “It would be a great thing so we can understand his opinion. He should hold a town hall like Doyle.”

Leuba says he has been able to attend one of Rothfus’ “Coffee with Keith” events in the past, but says that Rothfus hasn’t held one of these low-key meetings in several months. (The coffee events usually only attract a handful of constituents and are typically scheduled during the middle of the day during the week, which Leuba says makes it impossible for many of Rothfus’ constituents to attend.) Rothfus has traveled to events throughout his district during Congress’ recesses this year, like a meeting in Aspinwall with firefighters and a talk at Duquesne University's law school, but the events were not announced publicly.

Leuba has grown so frustrated with Rothfus’ lack of accessibility that he created an official political-action committee, commonly referred to as a PAC, called the “Yinzers Against Jagoffs PAC” (Federal Election Commission ID is C00635169). He says the PAC is about increasing engagement in the 12th District, which spans six counties including Beaver, Allegheny and Cambria, with the ultimate goal of getting Rothfus to hold a town hall.

“It’s not just about buying more chicken suits,” says Leuba. “It is about outreach — bring a little hope that there will be more representation from our representative.”

Leuba's father, Sanford, was standing beside his son outside Soldiers & Sailors and is also concerned about how Rothfus will vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He says he would like to speak to Rothfus before a vote, which could come as early as March 23.

Leuba has been active in politics in the district and volunteered for Erin McClelland, Rothfus' political rival, last year. He says part of the reason Rothfus has continuously won re-election is because Rothfus stays relatively quiet, and voters don’t really understand his values and just support his incumbency.

“I think the way [Rothfus] does win, is that he lays low,” says Leuba. “I think when people actually know him and his stances, they will change their minds.”

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Constituents and advocates protest anti-immigration stances of Pittsburgh-area state reps

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Immigrant-rights advocates and constituents protest outside Dom Costa's office in Morningside. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Immigrant-rights advocates and constituents protest outside Dom Costa's office in Morningside.
In the aftermath of recent immigration stories like the deportation of Pittsburgh immigrant-rights advocate Martín Esquivel-Hernandez and President Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders, thousands of Pittsburgh residents have responded with a call to action. They are demanding local laws and policies that are sympathetic to immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

In contrast, many Pittsburgh-area Democratic state representatives have continued their support for bills that immigrant-rights activists say are harmful to law-abiding undocumented immigrants and their communities. Allegheny County Democratic state Reps. Dom Costa, Joe Markosek, Tony Deluca, Harry Readshaw and Bill Kortz all have a legislative history of supporting anti-immigrant legislation.

And a group of immigrant-rights advocates and constituents are not happy about it. On March 13, outside of Costa’s Morningside office, more than 30 people protested past and recent actions from Costa on immigration-related bills in the Pennsylvania legislature; 10 of the 30 people were Costa's constituents.

Costa and DeLuca (D-Penn Hills), for example, have recently co-sponsored HB 856 and HB 459, bills that would require Pennsylvania employers to use E-Verify to check if workers are legally authorized to work in U.S., and would impose penalties on business that hire undocumented workers.

On their faces, the bills appear to punish employers, not immigrants, but Guillermo Perez, of the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement, says the potential laws could further encourage employers to keep all workers off the books, thus exposing employees, including the undocumented, to sub-standard wages and working conditions. Additionally, mandatory E-Verify programs in other states have had mixed results, and penalties for hiring undocumented workers are already imposed by the federal government.

“This is not in place with our values,” said Perez at the protest. “Pittsburgh has a history of embracing working-class immigrants.”

Perez also called for Allegheny County Democratic state representatives to denounce HB 14, a bill encouraging college professors and administrators to tip off U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to undocumented immigrants, and SB 10, a bill that would strip funding from sanctuary municipalities.

“I am vehemently opposed to SB 10,” said Hannah Gerbe, a Costa constituent from Friendship. “It will only lead to increased racial profiling and deportations. I want Costa to pick the side of being welcoming and oppose these anti-immigrant bills.”

Representatives from Costa's office did not return a request for comment.

Costa was originally a co-sponsor on HB 14, and constituents and advocates protested in front of his office in February against his support. Costa later said he was incorrectly listed as a co-sponsor and vowed to vote against HB 14. Additionally, Costa, Markosek, Readshaw and Kortz all voted in favor of HB 1885 last year, which was a stricter anti-sanctuary-municipality bill than SB 10, since it required local police officers who have “reasonable cause” to believe an immigrant is undocumented to contact ICE.

Perez questions the intentions of these anti-immigrant bills. “How will any of this lead to economic growth and prosperity for workers and families?,” said Perez. “We need young, working-age people with families who want to make positive contributions to settle here in Pennsylvania.”

This idea has been echoed by both Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who both want to see an increase in immigrants moving to the area to fill soon-to-be vacated jobs and fight population decline. According to U.S. Census figures, from 2010-2015, the Pittsburgh metro area's population would have declined by thousands had 12,000 immigrants not moved in.

Immigrant-rights advocates understand the importance of attracting and keeping immigrants in the region too, and it appears they have many Allegheny County constituents on their side. Gabe McMorland, of the Thomas Merton Center, said last week that a group of advocates spent four days phone-banking constituents to inform them of their state representatives’ support for anti-immigrant legislation. McMorland said they contacted hundreds of constituents, and many were sympathetic to immigrant issues and unaware of their state representatives' support of the aforementioned bills.

McMorland said that advocates plan to rally more constituents and hold demonstrations outside the offices of Markosek, Readshaw, Kortz and DeLuca in the near future.

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