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About A Dozen Arrested As Demonstrators Block I-84 Entrance Ramp At Rush Hour

Jenna Carlesso

November 18, 2011

A dozen protesters who sat down and blocked a normally busy I-84 entrance ramp were quietly arrested by waiting police Thursday, the culmination of a union-sponsored demonstration against economic inequality and high unemployment.

Traffic, however, had already been diverted off Broad Street, where the ramp is located. Dozens of police officers, including two mounted on horses, stood by as people who had agreed to be arrested took their spots. About 100 other protesters stood on the nearby sidewalks looking on.

"It was a little scary," said Renae Reese, one of the 12 protesters to be arrested. "It was a scary situation. The riot gear was out.

"But we could look back and see the hundreds of folks who were with us, chanting so powerfully. It was inspiring."

Arrested were Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group; John Murphy, a member of the action group; Daniel Hayes, a University of Connecticut student; Bill Shortell, a member of the Machinists union District 26; Danny Medress, political director of the CSEA-SEIU union; Eda DiBicarri, lead organizer for CSEA-SEIU; Rhona Cohen, a member of the nonprofit Connecticut Center For a New Economy; Danny Ravizza, a Western Connecticut State University student; Reese, director of the Connecticut Center For a New Economy; Steve Thornton, vice president of SEIU District 1199 union; Tony Whelan, a member of Machinists District 26; and John Harrity, a recent Machinists retiree, said organizer Matt O'Connor, communications director of Service Employees International Union Local 2001.

All were charged with disorderly conduct, he said.

Reese said the group decided to block the entrance ramp to ensure their message was heard.

"Infrastructure is crumbling; we need jobs," she said. "There's clearly a way here to get people back to work. There's work that needs to be done."

The protest began at 3 p.m. in front of Aetna on Farmington Avenue, where demonstrators marched in a circle carrying signs and flags and chanting "Aetna, Aetna, you're no good; help build up our neighborhood," among other things.

It was part of a national "day of action" marking the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in New York City. The demonstrators represented a mix of union workers and participants in the Occupy Hartford movement that has been protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and other issues.

From Aetna, the protesters marched along Farmington Avenue, passing in front of Webster Bank and Bank of America, and shouting slogans targeting the banks. The protesters turned right on Flower Street and marched behind the Hartford Courant building, chanting "shame on the Hartford Courant."

Demonstrators said they were rallying against layoffs and management bonuses at the banks and media company.

"We're making it clear that we're expecting action [for] this economic crisis in our country," Swan said. "We're sending a message to the 1 percent that we expect them to step up and pay their fair share."

Hannah Kluger, a sociology student from the University of Hartford, said the protest was "symbolic of people's frustration," particularly with the healthcare system and major corporations.

"Their No. 1 goal is profit, which prioritizes money over people's needs," she said. "I think people need to come together to create a society that benefits people."

David Roche, president of Connecticut State Building and Construction Trades Council, said 30 to 50 percent of his union, composed of about 30,000 construction workers, is unemployed.

"We're tired of not being able to go to work everyday," he said. "It's never been this bad. Our membership used to be double what it is today and they used to all work."

William Davis, a participant of Occupy Hartford, said he and others left the movement's campsite at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Broad Street to join the protest because "we're fighting for the same cause."

"It's a weekday. There shouldn't be this many people available to protest on a weekday in America," Davis said. "We're out here holding signs instead of working."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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