ELEVEN ARRESTED AS JOBS MARCH SHUTS DOWN 10TH AVE BRIDGE: Clergy, Unemployed Workers, and Allies Call For End to Jobs Gap

Eleven activists including the Rev. Paul Slack, pastor of New Creation Church were arrested in an act of non-violent civil disobedience on Thursday as a crowd of about 400-500 marchers demanding good jobs shut down traffic on the 10th Avenue bridge during the evening rush hour.

After weeks of multiple votes by Congress to block the President’s jobs plan, a coalition of clergy, unemployed workers, and local residents marched to “Bridge the Jobs Gap” and demand government action to fix crumbling infrastructure, create good jobs and address Minnesota’s record racial disparity in employment. The marchers emphasized the need for Wall Street and the wealthy to pay their fair share to fund job creation and avoid devastating budget cuts.

“It is time for us as faith and community leaders to take a courageous stand for racial justice and bridge the jobs gap between whites and African Americans. Everyone deserves a path that leads out of poverty and into opportunity. Faith calls us to correct bad policies that favors the few and is destroying our democracy and co-create new policies that benefit all people,” said the Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church in Minneapolis, Chair of the Clergy and Religious Leaders Group of ISAIAH a major network of faith based organizations.

After eleven activists, all associated with the Minnesotans for a Fair Economy coalition (including Rev. Slack and Sunday Alabi, the President of the community group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change) were arrested, the group concluded its rally outside of the University of Minnesota Law School. More than 100 of them marched down Washington Ave to join an Occupy Minnesota rally in downtown Minneapolis.

“Minnesotans know better than almost anyone how much crumbling bridges and infrastructure can cost a community. We must fix Minnesota’s infrastructure and we must use these jobs to fix the economic inequality in our state–with 22% African-American unemployment we have one of the worst racial job gaps in the country. We are marching to demand that our leaders pass a jobs bill that will put people back to work repairing our infrastructure and providing vital public services, not kill even more jobs with devastating budget cuts,” said Tee McClenty, Executive Vice President of SEIU HealthCare Minnesota.

Unemployed workers and local residents have held multiple events at the 10th Avenue Bridge this fall to call attention to the urgent need to create jobs by putting people to work repairing bridges and other infrastructure. Thursday’s march will call on the Minnesota Department of Transportation and our state and national leaders to ensure that infrastructure projects create opportunities for African Americans and other workers and contractors that have been traditionally been left out.

Shar Knutson, the President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO who took part in the march said, “It’s mind-boggling for there to be so much infrastructure in disrepair, so many people out of work, and yet so little investment in getting these projects going. The race gap in Minnesota’s unemployment rate is unacceptable and must be closed. We believe in a Minnesota that works for everyone.”

Organizers of the event say that state officials must ensure that the jobs will be allocated in a way that reflects the racial diversity of our region and state. A report from Transportation for America found 1,149 of Minnesota’s bridges, 8.8% of bridges in the state, are structurally deficient. On average, more than 83,000 Minnesotans use these unsound bridges daily.

The Bridge the Gap March in Minneapolis was organized by the faith-based organization ISAIAH, the community-labor collation Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, and the SEIU African American Caucus and endorsed by organizations including the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Minnesota NOC (Neighborhoods Organizing for Change), the Harrison Neighborhood Association, His Works United, Minnesota State Baptist Convention, New Creation Church, TakeAction Minnesota, SEIU, CTUL, UFCW Local 1189, student groups and others.