Council Chamber Erupts in Senate Soda-Tax Hearing Protest

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A Pennsylvania Senate hearing on the negative business impact of Philadelphia’s landmark Sweetened Drinks Tax in City Council Chambers was stymied before it could begin at 11 a.m. this morning. Hundreds of protestors crammed the spectators’ gallery and burst into sustained chants of “This is our house!”, backed up by raucous blasts on vuvuzelas and whistles.

AT THE HEARING were State Sens. Scott Martin; Anthony Williams, who convened the hearing; Thomas McGarrigle; Tina Tartaglione; and Scott Wagner, who is running for governor, and was roving through Council chambers seeking to calm demonstrators when this photograph was taken.

As the protest continued, small children entered the council members’ precinct and sat at their vacant desks, right under the eyes of the legislators.

SOME PROTESTORS waved signs defending the expanded pre-K programing that the Sweetened Drinks Tax is designed to fund…

…WHILE OTHERS were upholding the cause of parks and recreation centers, another beneficiary of the tax. George Matysik of Philadelphia Parks Alliance was on the scene and actively led his contingent.

SEIU appears to represent the vuvuzela players of Philadelphia.

THIRTY MINUTES into the demonstration, with no letup in sight, broadcast media clustered to the speakers’ table to ask Sen. Williams what he planned to do next. The answer came 10 minutes later, as the Senate committee’s staffers and the expert witnesses gathered to testify packed up their materials and left.

THE ONLY council member who attended this abortive State Senate hearing was Helen Gym, a redoubtable education advocate. She didn’t seem at all flustered by the commotion.

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