11 arrested in unemployment protest on bridge

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2011 - 11:09 PM

The demonstration on the 10th Avenue span in Minneapolis was among those inspired by Occupy Wall Street actions.

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Eleven people protesting unemployment were arrested Thursday, accused of blocking traffic on the 10th Avenue bridge in Minneapolis, part of a national wave of demonstrations that has gathered momentum from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

About 400 demonstrators chose the old bridge as the destination of their march to call for a national jobs program to repair crumbling infrastructure and highlight rampant unemployment among black Minnesotans.

"How do we fix the deficit? End the war and tax the rich," protesters chanted, as they marched from the University of Minnesota Law School. Once on the bridge, most of the protesters moved to the sidewalk, chanting slogans denouncing Wall Street, but 11 of them sat on the street, their arms interlocked. After 10 minutes, police handcuffed the protesters, helped them to their feet and led them away to be photographed and put in a police wagon.

The arrests were a contrast to the sometimes-violent confrontations in New York, Seattle and other cities.

"It's going quite well," said Minneapolis police Lt. Dean Christiansen, who was supervising officers at the scene. He said a protest organizer spoke with him Wednesday and spelled out the protesters' plans and "it's going as we had agreed."

Sgt. Gerry Nelson said the 11 protesters were being arrested for violating two misdemeanor state statutes, obstructing vehicle traffic and creating a public nuisance. The sit-down occurred during rush hour, and Christiansen said traffic was diverted during the demonstration.

Many people in the crowd were members of religious groups such as Isaiah, neighborhood organizations and union groups, including the African American caucus of the Service Employees International Union.

The first person arrested was Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church in Minneapolis, who co-chaired the protest committee. Slack said the aim of the protest was to "bridge the jobs gap between whites and African Americans."

Sunday Alabi, 61, of Minneapolis, who is with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, waited to be arrested. "If we don't have jobs, we have no way to survive," he said.

Donna Cassutt, 51, of Minneapolis, who is with Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, a protest sponsor, said she was getting arrested to underscore her view that Congress should pass President Obama's jobs bill and to emphasize her frustration that unemployment of black Minnesotans is 22 percent, about three times that of whites.

After the arrests, the remaining marchers returned to the law school for a short rally. Some protesters then marched to the Hennepin County Government Center plaza where Occupy Minnesota has been demonstrating since Oct. 7.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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