LETTER: Peaceful protesters arrested

Fae Ehsan

Despite 16 continuous weeks of protests and calls to hold an in-person town hall, Sen. Pat Toomey would rather Philadelphia police arrest his constituents than talk to them himself. On Feb. 28, 11 peaceful constituents were arrested for organizing a sit-in at the lobby of his former office building to ask, once again, for a town hall meeting.

Amy Kuiken, 34, of Dallas, Pa., holds her sign, as she listens to a a person's story during a town hall meeting regarding health care held on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, at the United Neighborhood Center in Scranton, Pa. U.S. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) was invited to speak at the town hall, but did not attend.  ( Butch Comegys / The Times & Tribune via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIt

Toomey’s statement after the arrests called for “civility” as a “necessary part of a productive conversation,” but it seems to me that the good senator has forgotten what civility means. Peaceful protest is, by definition, a civil act. Conversely, civility does not mean accusing constituents of being paid protesters or out-of-state callers, as the senator has done on numerous occasions.

The United States has a great history of civil disobedience. From the Boston Tea Party to the (at the time illegal) sit-ins staged by civil rights activists under Jim Crow, America’s arc has bent toward justice. I would urge Senator Toomey to take the time when he’s not holding a town hall to read about the robust tradition of protest in America. He should start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

When he’s done, maybe he’ll talk to his constituents civilly at a town hall instead of allowing police to take them away in handcuffs.