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Environmental Activists Protest Senator Over Fossil Fuel Corruption

Above photo: Facebook/Karen Igou.

NOTE: Here is  a firsthand account of an action at Senator Yaws’ office in Pennsylvania that occurred on June 13, 2022.

Harrisburg, PA -Ten of us were arrested on Monday. We were arrested because, rather than hear the truth, our Legislature chose to arrest people.

Monday began with a training at 10am – a healthy mix of the principles of nonviolent direct action and rehearsing the scenarios, and the first action team headed out of the church at 12:55pm, followed by the non-arrestable team at 1pm. The police recognized members of the first action team, but the team was able to get up to Senator Gene Yaw’s office.

8 of us were arrested in Senator Yaw’s office. We went in to demand that Senator Yaw resign from his second job – he’s a lawyer at the McCormick Law Firm in Williamsport.

What’s the issue? Well, first, Yaw is handsomely paid as a FULL TIME legislator. But, more to the point, Yaw is also the Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. In that role he oversees legislation that impacts the oil and gas industry.

The McCormick Law Firm works with the oil and gas industry. Seems a little shaky, no?

More, Yaw’s top ten donors to his campaign include 8 oil and gas related entities.

More, because Pennsylvania allows gifts and most of those gifts go unreported, we have NO IDEA how much money Yaw is raking in from the oil and gas industry.

But here’s the kicker – when the 8 of us went inside the office we were told that the Senator wasn’t in, that he was already at work in the Senate. But, but, but, our people on the outside saw him SPRINTING out of the office when he knew we were there to see him.

Better still, his staff insisted that outside jobs, campaign contributions, and gifts weren’t bribes – and then called to have us arrested.

Funny fact, if we had offered to buy those policeman a cup of coffee and they had accepted, they would have been fired – that’s corruption. But Yaw can rake in the money and, because our corrupt legislature makes it legal, it’s not bribery, it’s all okay.

Everybody got out of police custody within an hour and received summary citations for criminal trespassing. These are the equivalent of traffic tickets.

The second action team left the church at 2pm. They planned to leave at 1:05pm, but the House kept going back into recess and caucusing. The team was kept in limbo until the House finally came into session around 4pm.

As it turned out, the second action saw 11 people willing to risk arrest visiting the House chambers. The plan was to “bribe” the legislators and drop a banner. The money droppers tossed money over the side, but the banner unfurlers were unable to unfurl the banner because of a very quick police response. The “bribers” rained $203 of (fake) blood stained real money ($1 for each Representative) on that corrupt body. The banner read You Take Bribes, The Planet Dies. Unfortunately, the Capitol Police ripped the banner out of the teams hands before it fully unfurled. Only 2 of the 11 were arrested, issued summary citations and then released fairly quickly, while the police issued a simple warning to the other 9 to not come back again within 24 hours.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that another allied group acted boldly throughout the weekend. Our spirits were lifted with the fruits of their bold action – banners were dropped from bridges, hung from billboards and fences. They, too, were giving voice to the urgency of the moment and, in the end, many of them joined us for the actions described above.

Coupled with the powerful panels, art, marches, projections, and trainings that made up the Climate Convergence, a powerful message was sent.

This was a beautiful example of moral fusion organizing, and together with our allies, March On Harrisburg, XR Philly, XR Delaware, Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance, Beyond Extreme Energy, Veterans For Peace, and the Green Party of Pennsylvania (and others), we brought out 50 people on a Monday to a nonviolent direct action. We put a spotlight on the intersection of fossil fueled climate catastrophe and catastrophic consequences the money that corrupts our politics. We successfully made some very corrupt people think about their corruption (and we also made some of our friends inside the building feel emboldened).

There are many tools in the activist toolbox. Nonviolent direct action is an essential one.

Overall, this was a great success – well done everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our demands: #ClimateActionNow #NoMoreSubsidiesForFossilFuelCompanies #EndPaCorruption

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