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Cecil residents take bus to Capitol to protest Rep. White's online attacks using false names

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:03 a.m.
Brad Bumsted, Tribune-Review
Rose O'Neill of Cecil is among protestors who boarded a bus to the Capitol to protest Rep. Jesse White's online activities using fake names.
Brad Bumsted, Tribune-Review
Residents of Cecil arrive at the state Capitol following a bus trip to visit Rep. Jesse White's offices and protest his online posts using fake names to attack constituents and lawmakers who favor shale-gas drilling.
Former state Rep. Jesse White

HARRISBURG — About 20 people boarded a bus to the Capitol on Tuesday and disembarked carrying signs to protest fictitious online posts by their legislator, state Rep. Jesse White of Cecil.

Among the placards: “Wipe Out White” and “Wake Up Democratic Caucus: Oust White.” Rose O'Neil, a retiree, carried a sign saying: “Jail Jesse.”

“Instead of representing the people in a positive way, he turns to the negative,” said John Campbell of Robinson, Washington County. “People are just tired of it. They want him to resign.”

White, 33, a Democrat, has clashed with gas-drilling companies and acknowledged that he wrote anonymous online posts and created fictional characters on Twitter and Facebook to attack constituents who support Marcellus shale drilling.

Using the aliases, White called his critics “mouth breathers” and labeled industry supporters, including senior citizens, “hucksters.” He called one woman “dumber than a box of rocks.”

White could not be reached for comment, but the House Democratic Caucus released a statement on his behalf.

“There is a time for politics and a time for governing,” White said in the statement. “I remain focused on my legislative responsibilities and on representing all of the more than 60,000 constituents in my legislative district, including those who disagree with me.”

The protesters never encountered White. They marched to his office in the Irvis Office Building, but his secretary said he was in caucus.

Donald Roessler, a farmer from Canonsburg who receives royalties from gas companies, said he sparred with White via the comments section of a local online newspaper where White addressed Roessler through his personal account and various aliases.

“When he would get to the point where he couldn't win a debate, that's when he would switch to the fictitious names,” Roessler said.

Roessler said White told people to boycott his farm because he favored drilling in Cecil.

White apologized to Roessler and another protester, Janice Gibbs, in a statement two weeks ago, but Roessler was not impressed.

“As far as I am concerned, his apology was pathetic,” Roessler said.

Some residents said they asked for White's resignation because of the admission that he used fake names to attack constituents and other lawmakers.

District attorneys in Washington and Dauphin counties have said they are investigating White's online activities.

Robert Handel, a former campaign worker for White, said he was disappointed in White for not following through with campaign promises and called on him to resign.

“There's nothing we didn't do for him. We were there for him every time until we found out what he was actually doing,” he said. “Now we just want to see him go.”

Josh Fatzick is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.

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