Monday, February 14, 2011

Demonstration Against Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson

Today in Harrisburg, PA, hundreds of people participated in a demonstration urging Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson to resign. Amidst multiple administrative and fiscal controversies surrounding Mayor Thompson, some area residents took to the streets to voice their unhappiness.

Linda Thompson was at the center of a controversy last summer involving church-state separation. Thompson reportedly began staff meetings with prayers, although she has stated that participation in prayers is voluntary and staff can leave the room if they wish. According to WGAL 8, after a Harrisburg employee filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU sent Thompson a private letter in July 2010 asking her to stop opening staff meetings with prayer.

Rob Boston at The Wall of Separation (the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State) worried that Harrisburg city staff could be ostracized if they did not wish to take part in prayers. Friendly Atheist and American Humanist posted additional commentary on the prayer controversy.

The controversies surrounding Thompson go far beyond prayers at staff meetings. In addition to Harrisburg's financial problems (including Act 47 status) and an SEC investigation into city finances, several of Thompson's staffers have resigned since she took office in January 2010, including several spokespersons, an interim business manager, a city solicitor, and a chief of staff. One former spokeswoman, Joyce Davis, told WGAL 8 that Mayor Thompson needs help and that she resigned due to a hostile work environment. Another former spokesman, Chuck Ardo, claimed that Thompson made homophobic comments about the city controller, as well as anti-Semitic comments about a Jewish developer.

In response to these accusations and mounting problems in Harrisburg, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the "Show Your Love Harrisburg" protest at the City Government Center today. Organized by former Harrisburg school board official Lisa Paige and promoted through social networking, today's demonstration urged Thompson to resign. A small group of counter-demonstrators was also present, showing support for the mayor. At one point in the demonstration, Thompson appeared in a City Government Center window and gestured to the crowd.

To see photos from today's demonstration, click here and here. To read additional news and commentary, visit the following links:

WGAL 8: Protesters, Former School Board Official Call for Harrisburg Mayor to Get Out

CBS 21: Rally Leaves Mayor with Simple Message: Leave

WPMT FOX 43: Protesters Call for Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson to Resign

Pennlive: Crowd Gathers in Downtown Harrisburg Calling for Mayor Linda Thompson to Quit

Today's the Day Harrisburg: For the Cause

Central Voice: 250 Gather at Harrisburg Rally Calling for Mayor Linda Thompson to Resign

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