Struggling to project her voice over persistent taxi horns and far-off sirens blaring through Center City, Sarah Roberts kept the megaphone close to her mouth.
Perhaps it was her nerves — this was Roberts’ first time addressing a crowd through a bullhorn — or maybe the biting cold weather that left the audience straining to hear her words.
The 31-year-old petite woman in an oversized magenta beanie, nonetheless was sending a powerful message to conservatives,and using their ammunition against them.
“Leviticus—which I know [Sen. Jeff Sessions] must love because he is really fond of using it to say gay people like me don’t deserve God’s love,” Roberts said through the megaphone. “Leviticus also says, ‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among youmust be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself,for you were foreigners in Egypt.'”
Roberts, an Alabama transplant, has much in common with the controversial Republican: They hail from the same Southern state; They were both raised in Methodist churches; And they both use Scripture to guide their political beliefs.
“In case anyone —Jeff Sessions, Pat Toomey — is confused, this means do not ban Muslims or Latinos from America, or treat them as second-class citizens,” Roberts continued amid cheers from the crowd. “And it does not mean that black children in America should have bad schools, and white people in America have good schools.”
Tuesdays with Toomey has now spread across the state, with events every week inAllentown, Johnstownand Pittsburgh. Initial gatherings in Philadelphia consisted of a band of hardly 10 protestors. This week, organizers expected 150, and saw a turnout that neared 100.
Vashti Bandy joined in its second week, and now organizes communications for Tuesdays with Toomey. In a letter to the editor published with NewsWorks, Bandy used the one-year anniversary of David Bowie’s death to urge people to be heroes for civil rights— “if just for one day.”
Not surprisingly, social justice is in her blood. Bandy’s grandmother, a Macon, Georgia,native,marched with Martin Luther King Jr. before relocating her family to Philly, fleeing a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob. She died shortly before President Barack Obama won his first term.
“If she was still here, she’d be fighting like hell,” Bandy said.
“Some of your critics might have a point,” Toomey wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “If you listen more, and talk less, you might even win some of them over. You will have to in order to be successful.”