Milwaukee Community Holds Historic Action on North Ave Bridge

“Get On the Bridge” joins global actions to demand jobs– not cuts
MILWAUKEE- Against the backdrop of an increasingly unsustainable economic crisis, and braving freezing temperatures, hundreds of Wisconsinites demonstrated on
the North Avenue Bridge overlooking I-43 early Thursday evening.

The event followed in the tradition of Milwaukee’s historic civil rights actions. The diverse coalition of parents, students, educators, and community leaders from across the state brought traffic to a halt as they took the bridge to declare a state of “economic emergency” for Wisconsin.

The action, titled “Get on the Bridge”, was held in solidarity with similar major actions across the country and around the world on Thursday.

For close to four hours, protestors chanted and sang. Chants such as “We are the 99%!” and “Stop the War, Tax the Rich–how we pay the deficit!” filled the night air, to the rhythm of a neighborhood family’s eloquent drumming. During this time, a designated group secured the area by blocking traffic on all sides. Five of the street marshals were arrested in the first hour.

Police then surrounded the bridge, but kept their distance. After several hours in the cold, the crowd, which was willing to risk arrest to make their voices heard, decided to march to the MICAH office. During the protest, there was a report of the thousands of Occupy Wall Street protestors marching across the Brooklyn bridge and a moment of solidarity with thousands across the globe organizing similar protests.

“Get on the Bridge” echoes Milwaukee’s 1967 demonstrations for fair housing laws, which lead to state boycotts, mass protests, and hundreds of people marching across the 16th Street Viaduct. Their courage eventually resulted in a state ordinance for fair housing, followed by the Federal Fair Housing Act in 1968.

Forty-four years after that victory, our leaders are again ignoring the cries of the communities most affected by their devastating policies.

According to Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz:

“The North Avenue Bridge symbolizes the failure of a tone-deaf political establishment to put millions of people back to work while there is clearly work that must be done in rebuilding our state’s infrastructure. 45,000 people are out of work in Wisconsin since Governor Walker took office.

We are not going to sit back and do nothing while our schools are gutted, critical health services are denied, and politicians toy with the idea of cutting unemployment and social security benefits. Our elected officials must prioritize family-supporting jobs, instead of more tax breaks for the rich. It’s our turn to get bailed out by a crisis that Wall Street created.”

Salvador Carranza, an unemployed Voces member in his sixties, reflected: “I was laid off a year ago from a factory where I was employed for 14 years. In this economy, it’s hard to find a job at my age. Extending unemployment benefits and creating job opportunities should be the top priority.”

Voces de la Frontera will continue to stand in proud solidarity with the many Wisconsinites in the demand for economic justice for the 99%.