The controversy around Hartford’s “Dunkin Donuts Park” continues, I am reflecting that the proposed stadium was sold to us as an economic engine to revitalize the city’s North End. Former political leaders signed on to the project and here we are today. Stadium not finished. Price tag for it somewhere between $60 – $70 million.
Moral Monday CT got involved when the statewide Minority Construction Council, approached us for help to address concerns that black and brown contractors and workers were not being hired for the construction. Sound familiar? We had concerns when there was an abundance of work and not enough black and brown Hartford residents hired during the Metropolitan District (MDC) multi-year renovation project. (The MDC is the non-profit municipal corporation chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1929 to provide water and sewage services for Greater Hartford.)
Moral Monday CT (MMCT) agreed to partner with the Minority Construction Council (MCC). One of our shared actions was a “Turn Up” we planned and executed in mid-December last year on the stadium. (“Turn Up” is the term used to speak of direct action/protest/non-violent civil disobedience.) Our “Turn Up” focused attention on stadium hiring practices and disparities. City leaders had promised MCC a fair chance in securing contracts for stadium construction yet MCC members were not getting work up until that point.
Any project of this size and scale ought to go out of its way to ensure Hartford black and brown residents, businesses and organizations are represented. Instead I drove by the construction site daily and saw few persons of color on the job. We began to talk about direct action.
During the “Turn Up” a number of persons stood up as an act of civil disobedience and risked arrest including long-time Hartford activist, community leader and MMCT founding member, Minister Cornell Lewis was also arrested — but it was an unplanned and unscheduled arrest. He was targeted by Hartford Police without prior warning or provocation. Rev. Lewis was, in fact, assisting in managing the “Turn Up” when HPD took him into custody, hand cuffed him and escorted him away.
As information emerged in the immediate aftermath of our action, a whole host of inaccuracies about the action where put forward by HPD especially concerning Minister Lewis’ participation and arrest.
At the same time, there is an untold story beginning to surface around the targeting of #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) leader-full leadership around the US. I believe Minister Lewis’ arrest during the stadium protest is one, local example of what’s taking place across the country — a “blacklash” targeting black liberation and resistance leaders in the present BLM movement.
Where is the outrage? Where is the outcry from justice-minded, justice-seeking folk of all stripes — to the inconsistent and unjust actions of our region’s political leadership? City leaders continue to make back room deals and ill-advised decisions that cost millions of tax payer dollars, with little to no public consequence.
Dismantle the status quo! Let’s not remain silent and complicit.
Bishop John Selders, CLS, DD