Security tasked with guarding U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s Pittsburgh office challenged a handful of activists hoping to deliver a petition to the Pennsylvania Republican on Thursday.
Organizers said the petition bearing 27,000 signatures urged the state’s junior senator to act on President Obama’s eventual nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, but most activists weren’t allowed inside. Security guards said they called the Pittsburgh Police, but no officers came to the scene.
The petition was eventually delivered to a Toomey staffer after he met activists outside the office, but Christine Stone, the group’s organizer and vice chair of Why Courts Matter PA, said she was surprised by the lack of public access.
"It was shocking, as this office, as many people know, is an office funded by taxpayer dollars," Stone said. "This is not a campaign office. This is not his personal residence. This is a taxpayer office."
"With a senator like this, who wants to threaten to shut down the government from time to time, who wants to say that he won't hear of a nominee no matter who it is -- I guess to me it's not a surprise."
One security guard with The Landmarks Building in Station Square said the issue stemmed from activists entering the building under "false pretenses" by signing in as visitors to the Women and Girls Foundation instead of making an appointment with Toomey’s office. Stone argued the WGF headquarters was used as a gathering place for the petitioners before walking over. No appointments were necessary, she said.
“A member of Sen. Toomey’s staff met with and received this group’s petition," Toomey's staff wrote in a statement. "It is the building management’s protocol to contact law enforcement when any protest or rally takes place in the building."
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) February 15, 2016
Stone said she thinks Toomey's unwillingness to act on an Obama nominee to fill the SCOTUS vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia is unacceptable.
"[Supreme Court decisions] affect the environment," Stone said. "They affect the schools we go to. They affect women's reproductive rights"
In a statement on his website released Feb. 15, Toomey said, "Given that we are already well into the presidential election process and that the Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime, it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision. The next Court appointment should be made by the newly-elected president."
Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey countered Feb. 14 on Twitter, "When @POTUS nominates his candidate for
#scotus, the Senate should fulfill its constitutional duty and hold hearings/vote without delay."
Earlier this Wednesday, he tweeted, "Senate Republicans: do your job."