The Hartford Police Department arrested 12 people blocking the I-84 on ramp Thursday afternoon who said they “occupied” it in protest against America’s crumbling economy and infrastructure.
The 12, who wore pink arm bands, volunteered to occupy the ramp, knowing they could be arrested. The mix of young and older adults sat in a line at the ramp’s entrance for about 15 minutes before police arrested them for “disorderly conduct” while about 100 of the protesters looked on from across the street. The 12 were then ushered one-by-one into a Hartford Police van.
CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 spokesman Matt O’Connor said the 12 protesters expected to be arrested.
Before the arrests, Rhona Cohen said she felt ready for police to arrest her for the cause and that she’s never been arrested before. Cohen, an activist, is also the wife of newly elected New Britain Mayor Tim O’Brien.
“The time is now to take a stand,” she said. “I want to stand up because enough is enough. We’ve been running and running trying to make ends meet. It’s time to stand up with the millions.”
O’Connor said over 200 protesters were involved in the event, which was led by activist organization Connecticut Action Alliance for a Fair Economy. It drew participants from unions across the state and from the Occupy Wall Street offshoot, Occupy Hartford. Members of 32BJ SEIU, the largest property services union in the country, also came to the protest in support of better benefits and higher wages.
Contract talks began Thursday for 2,000 Connecticut office cleaners comprising 32BJ SEIU, who rallied outside the Hartford Courant building on Broad Street, where eight of the Courant’s office cleaners, or janitors, said they were facing the possibility of layoffs.
Eddie Williams, a janitor at the Courant building for 20 years, said he stood in solidarity with his co-workers.
“We need our jobs,” he said. “What am I going to do without my job? I got to feed my family and I know you’re all worried about the same. I’m not going to lay down.”
The protesters marched from Aetna’s corporate headquarters at 151 Farmington Ave. in Hartford to the I-84 on ramp. Many of the protesters targeted Aetna, nearby Bank of America, Webster Bank, The Hartford and the Hartford Courant as examples of corporate greed in Hartford.
The march drew a heavy presence from the Hartford Police Department, which could not confirm the number of officers present. Mounted police and crusiers blocked off Flower Street, which is parallel to Broad, and the entrance to I-84 before the protest even began.
Protesters said they picked the on ramp because it represents part of the crumbling infrastructure across the country that could use more congressional funding.
“We’re going to this spot because it’s decrepit,” Cohen said. “There is legislation that could support this kind of construction and rebuilding.”