Piits, Strader supporters spar over Willowdale protest

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State Police were called and event was cut short; no arrests

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Democratic congressional candidate Aryana Strader speaks to a protest rally near U.S. Rep. Joe Pitss’ office in Willowdale, Saturday. After State Police were called to the event, if was cut short, organizers say.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Supporters of Aryana Strader and Joseph Pitts exchanged barbs this week over a protest near Pitts’ office on Saturday, an event that ended early after State Police were called.

The protest, an event criticizing the eight-term Congressman for his stance on abortion and other issues, was put on by the Women’s Rights Coalition of Southern Chester County (WRCSCC), which is battling what it terms a “war on women” primarily by Republican elected officials. It took place at Pitts’ district office, at the corner of Routes 82 and 926 in the Willowdale section of the township.

“We held this rally to increase awareness of Congressman Pitts’ ongoing votes and sponsored legislation against women and their rights,” said Cindy Losco, a founder of the group.  She referred to a piece of legislation she called the “Let Women Die Act,” the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, Pitts’ vote against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012 and several other examples of what she said was his role in undermining the rights of women.

A Pitts campaign spokesman, Gabe Neville, said that the event and the resulting complaints about it being cut short were nothing more than political theater.

“This was a tone-deaf campaign stunt,” Neville said.

WRCSCC has been supporting Strader, a Democrat from Kennett Square, in her attempt to unseat Pitts in the 16th Congressional District.

The issue that led to police being called appears to be that at least some of the attendees were on private property — the building location there not only houses Pitts offices, but a local financial planning business. The pictures supplied by WRCSCC seem to indicate at least some of the participants and attendees were off the highway right of way — a strip of land that typically surrounds public roads and is a public easement — and on private property. It is unclear who called police, but a Pitts’ campaign spokesman confirmed it was not anyone from the district office.

The State Police were able to resolve the matter without arrests and were able to persuade organizers to cut the event short as a compromise. Strader was among a number of current and former candidates were able to address the crowd of some 65 supporters at the abbreviated event.

“I can’t believe we’re fighting again for rights we already have,” Strader told the crowd.  “Wouldn’t all of this time and effort be better spent on creating jobs and bolstering the economy – the two primary issues Joe Pitts ran on in 2010?”

Pitts’ campaign, though, suggested Strader is engaging in grandstanding, and hit her for the fact that she lives a number of blocks outside of the 16th District (although under the previous districting plan, she did live in the 16th, and the new plan split Kennett Square between the 7th and 16th districts).

“Joe Pitts is focused on rebuilding economic security for American families,” Neville said.  “The voters want to know what we are going to do to reduce unemployment and balance the federal budget.  Congressman Pitts has answered these questions with specifics, and has been visiting job centers and food banks to make sure people are getting the help they need.

“Amazingly, Ms. Strader—who moved to Chester County a year ago from New York and does not live in the district she is running to represent—has decided that her priority is forcing taxpayers and Catholic institutions to pay for abortion,” Neville continued.  “Absolutely amazing.”

In addition to Strader, event speakers included Lois Herr, who ran against Pitts twice in recent years, Patricia Worrell, the Democrat facing Domenic Pileggi for the 9th District state Senate seat.

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