The progressive advocacy group March on Harrisburg claim they are disrupting the status quo in the Pennsylvania Capitol, with their protests erupting not only on the streets but also at private events, combined with a flashy social media presence designed to grab headlines. But its leaders are engaging in increasingly public confrontations with sitting legislators, and several have criminal histories that are seldom included for context in media accounts.
Randall Hayes is one of the leaders who was at a confrontational protest at a fundraiser at a Harrisburg restaurant on Jan. 31st. Hayes has identified himself as a chapter leader of March on Harrisburg, even though last week’s protest was billed as belonging to “Action on Climate,” which appears to be closely linked to March on Harrisburg. Other prominent organizations allied with the March include the progressive group Common Cause PA and Pennsylvania’s League of Women Voters.
Hayes is seen in video footage leading last week’s protest and speaking to the media at the Rubicon restaurant, less than one block east of the state Capitol building.
Hayes was arrested in 2010 after admitting to “downloading images of child pornography on his computer during a one-month time period in February-March 2010,” according to an FBI press release. The release also notes Hayes was sentenced to 66 months of prison and “15 years of supervised release following his prison sentence,” a sentence that was scheduled to last until 2025.
Hayes, who worked with children at the time of his arrest, also attempted to induce “other males to mail him girl’s underwear,” according to a forensic examination of a laptop seized from his home. He registered with the state’s sex offender registry in 2014, according to the Megan’s Law registry website.
Also seen on the video is Michael Bagdes-Canning, who identified himself to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Badges-Canning is more frequently affiliated or seen with Pennsylvania Action on Climate.
Bagdes-Canning was once arrested for trapping several persons in a revolving door at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh in 2016. According to media reports, persons trapped in the door were not freed until police intervened and arrested Bagdes-Canning.
Bagdes-Canning is a former president and vice president of the Grove City teachers union, the local affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest and most powerful teachers’ union. He also was the Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor in 2022, receiving 23,279 votes statewide.
Neither Hayes nor Bagdes-Canning returned a request for comment. Rabbi Michael Pollack, identified as the executive director of MoH and listed in state documents as the official lobbyist for the group in 2023, also did not return an email request for comment. Pollack has frequently led rallies in the Harrisburg Capitol.
The Harrisburg fundraiser from a week ago drew controversy when Sen. Mike Regan, R-York put his hands on Bagdes-Canning in an effort to gain entry to the restaurant to which Bagdes-Canning was blocking the entrance.
Bagdes-Canning was also arrested at the Capitol last summer for “occupying” a state senator’s office in protest, according to March on Harrisburg’s website. He and other protesters were acquitted, according to the group’s Instagram feed.
Hayes has tweeted on numerous occasions supporting a relaxing of the state’s sex offender registry laws.
“People with sex offenses are people, too. The vast majority who have paid their debt to society and are getting back on their feet do not go on to re-offend,” he tweeted in Sept., 2021. “We all deserve a 2nd chance, even those who have seriously hurt people.”
Hayes has also written numerous published letters to the Penn Capital-Star, identifying himself with the March on Harrisburg.
According to its website, “MarchOnHarrisburg works to end corruption and move Pennsylvania from the fifth most corrupt state in the USA into one of the least corrupt by passing a wave of democracy bills to end excessive money in politics, end gerrymandering, and secure and expand the right to vote.”
(Note: The group’s website uses two stylistic forms of its name, ‘March on Harrisburg’ and ‘MarchonHarrisburg.’)
The group has oftentimes been more notable for the way it protests as opposed to the message it’s trying to get across.
A year ago, the group interrupted a luncheon of the Pennsylvania Press Club when then-House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre County) was the featured speaker.
In November, Pennsylvania Action on Climate blocked a roadway in State College on the weekend of the final home game of the Penn State football season.
“A small group of protestors brought a big amount of State College traffic to a standstill in the hours before the final Penn State Nittany Lions home football game Saturday,” a local television station reported.
“State College Police were called in and for about five minutes they let the protest happen before the protestors were convinced to get off the street,” the report noted.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports