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'Turzai Six' plead guilty after arrests outside state house speaker's home

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, 4:24 p.m.
Members of the political reform group March on Harrisburg confer with their attorney Michael Healey (far right) Wednesday before a hearing on trespassing charges filed after they protested in July outside House Speaker Mike Turzai’s home.
Members of the political reform group March on Harrisburg confer with their attorney Michael Healey (far right) Wednesday before a hearing on trespassing charges filed after they protested in July outside House Speaker Mike Turzai’s home.

Six members of a political reform group that staged a protest last month outside Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai’s home in Marshall pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.

The self-proclaimed “Turzai Six” wanted to meet with Turzai about redrawing Pennsylvania’s political map when they were handcuffed, taken away in police cars and charged misdemeanor trespassing.

The group agreed Wednesday to pay fines and court costs totaling $466. Magisterial District Judge William Wagner gave them 30 days to pay.

“I’m happy to not be in prison,” said John Randolph, 52, of Havertown.

The six are members of March on Harrisburg, a grassroots group seeking reform of the state’s system for determining political boundaries. Randolph said they went to Turzai’s home after repeated attempts to speak with him and failed attempts to deliver a letter calling for a vote on an amendment that would create a citizens commission to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries.

The bill and amendment stalled in the House after the lawmakers adjourned for summer recess.

Turzai declined to comment through an office staffer.

Northern Regional Police charged the six with a misdemeanor charge of defiant trespass after they refused to leave Turzai’s property on July 13.

“None of us wanted to be arrested,” Randolph said. “We went there to try to raise our concerns with our legislator about the issue that we’ve worked on for two years to create an independent citizens commission for redistricting.

“It’s sad when the voters have to go and risk arrest just to be heard. That’s when you know the system is broken.”

Randolph said he and Carol Cutler, 69, of North Huntingdon went to Turzai’s door and spoke with his son about delivering the letter. Turzai wasn’t home.

Susan McAninch, 71, of Skippack in Montgomery County said police officers were very respectful and repeatedly asked them to leave before arresting them.

“The rest of us were holding a banner very respectfully on the sidewalk,” she said. “They kept asking us, ‘Can you please move,’ and we said, ‘No, we cant. We are waiting for Speaker Turzai.’”

In addition to Randolph, Cutler and McAninch, the group included Rebecca Lubold, 66, of Slippery Rock; Wilma Oman, 63, of Slippery Rock; and Carol Ballance, 64, of Pine.

They vowed after leaving the hearing to continue lobbying for redistricting reform.

“We hope that Speaker Turzai will contribute to the (legal) fund and eventually break bread with us,” said Rabbi Michael Pollack, executive director of the March on Harrisburg.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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