One hundred and five miles in nine days—that is the feat just accomplished by March on Harrisburg’s participants, who marched from Philadelphia to the State Capital in Harrisburg, May 13-21. But the activists do not have time to rest their feet, as they start a four-day lobby and protest at the State Capital, May 22-24.
“The relationship between governed and government is in a sorry state and there is a lot to be done to heal that relationship,” said Executive Director Michael Pollack of the March on Harrisburg. The way Pollack and March on Harrisburg are trying to “heal that relationship” is by focusing on passing three bills: HB 39/SB 132, HB 722/SB 22, and HB 193/SB 608. Respectively, the bills, if passed, would place a ban on most gifts to state legislators, stop gerrymandering by implementing a non-partisan redistricting process, and improve voter accessibility by instituting automatic voter registration.
Pollack explained that the organization, which he described as a “pop-up organization [and a] fully autonomous group,” whittled down their mission to these three bills, because the proposed legislation emblematize the larger issues that need to be resolved in government: “money and politics, voter access, and voter impact.” The argument is that with these bills, Pennsylvania will take a step back from dark money, donor, and partisan influence in elections and a step towards, as the protesters cheered during the march, “one person, one vote.” The Brennan Center recently published a report that cited how gerrymandering has impacted the U.S.’s election system nationwide and how Pennsylvania is among the top states to have continually shown “extreme levels of partisan bias” with redistricting. He added that the HB 39/SB 132, which places limits on gifts to state legislators, is a Republican bill and that may help with its passing, since Republicans hold a House and Senate majority. “We have already worked with the authors of bills to change language, primarily with gift ban bill,” Pollack said. In regards to political lines, according to the March on Harrisburg website, “March on Harrisburg is a nonpartisan state-wide volunteer effort to heal our wounded democracy.”
March on Harrisburg participants have lobbied for these three bills’ passage since November, meeting with 230 out of the 253 PA Legislators. This coming week, the organization will increase its efforts with mass mobilized lobbying. If the bills are not passed, they are prepared to display non-violent civil disobedience. The specific actions planned could not be disclosed for legal reasons.
Pollack relayed that the march was successful with 25 full-time marchers and hundreds of other participants. However, last Saturday, the march faced an initial setback with the rain. Where the march expected several hundred participants, only 75 showed up to march in the storm. But by the next day, the skies cleared up and marchers, who started in Haverford, walked approximately 15-miles, holding signs that read such statements as “Let Us In” and “Fair Free Elections,” as seen in Dan Loeb’s footage on Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s Periscope.
Throughout the march, the participants have resided in different places, mainly in churches. Although March on Harrisburg members have not stayed at a synagogue, Pollack, a student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, said that they hope to in their future activist endeavors. Several rabbis, primarily from the Reconstructionist denomination, have marched with and have given speeches for March on Harrisburg, such as Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of the combined Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities (RRC/JRC). Waxman is the first woman and lesbian rabbi to lead a congregational movement and seminary. Other rabbis include, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer of RRC, who headed a storytelling workshop, and Rabbi Diana Miller of Kehilat HaNahar, “The Little Shul by the River” in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
When asked why people should get involved in direct actions, such as their four-day lobby and protest that starts this Monday in Harrisburg, Pollack responded, “a representative democracy is a relationship, a marriage between government and governed, and we need to put in the work to be healthy and functioning.” For more information on March on Harrisburg’s mission and on how to get involved in their call to action, visit their website.
For Dan Loeb’s videos of March on Harrisburg, watch Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s Periscope videos:
- March on Harrisburg Day Two from Montgomery in Rosemont
- March on Harrisburg Day Two Marching Through Bryn Mawr
- March on Harrisburg Day Two Interviews and More
For more information on redistricting, check out Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s following articles:
- “Unanimous Resolution to End PA Gerrymandering“
- “Standing Room Only at Gerrymandering Talk“
- “Vote for Redistricting Reform“
* Update – It can now be confirmed that as of Monday, May 22, March on Harrisburg is having a sit-in at PA State Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s office. A number have been arrested. The organization plans to continue its sit-in for the remainder of the week.