Piits, Strader supporters spar over Willowdale protest

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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  1. Lorraine S says:

    We as individual citizens have a right to lobby our congressman. I’ll bet Rep. Pitts listens to large lobbying firms, why not listen to the invividuals who are the ones whom he represents and who vote?

  2. Liberally Thinking says:

    The people have the constitutional right to seek redress from their government. If Pitts refuses to speak to us we need to gather in protest. The WRC did nothing wrong. Pitts will only debate Strader in a PRIVATE event that the public cannot attend? Please. He has clearly forgotten for whom he works. And I, for one, like firing people. Goodbye Joe.

  3. Janet says:

    Does Joe Pitts not want to know how some of his constituents feel? Or does he only want to hear from those who agree with him?

  4. steve says:

    So with a new line draw, the Democrat now lives outside the district….Pitts used to represent eastern chester county, and if I’m not mistaken, some of Delaware county, until new lines were drawn giving him a much more conservative Lancaster county to represent. I guess it just depends who draws the redistricting lines and when…SOS.
    How many jobs bills did Pitts put his co-sponsorship to vs. how many restrictive women’s rights bills had his name attached?? Gotta love priorities

  5. Kristin Hoover says:

    Joe Pitts has been in way too long and needs to retire. He had “tea party” extreme right-wing views before a group of conservatives wrapped themselves in the Gadsden flag and got this label. Time for new leadership!

  6. Janet says:

    Strader has my vote- so what if she just moved here!

  7. Observing says:

    I’m not trying to start an argument but ask an honest question: where does the notion that you can protest on a “public easement” come from? The fact that PennDOT holds an easesment does not, to my understanding, allow people to enter on to someone else’s property without their permission. I have heard this said before but I have never seen any kind of legal support for this proposition.

    • Women's Rights Coaliation of SCC says:

      Observing, We did not enter the property we stood on the edge of the grass by the road. We did not block entrance ways or dissuade people from entering the building. We were about 50 feet away from the building. We as taxpayers pay for Joe Pitts to rent that office space and the fact that we can not even excercise our right to free speech and right to assemble is absurd. Joe Pitts will not speak to us about his stance on women’s issues. This was the only way to let him know we are paying attention to his votes and we will let him know on Nov. 6th how we feel.

      • Observing says:

        Thank you for your response. If Joe Pitts rents the space he doesn’t own the property. Did you have permission to assemble on the property from the owner?

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