Approximately 150 local students and community activists mixed with Occupy New Haven protestors in a demonstration on the New Haven Green Wednesday.
Less than a week after New Haven’s 29th homicide of the year, the New Elm City Dream, a local youth group, organized a march around the Green Wednesday night as a call for an end to city violence and for local and federal legislation to create jobs for young people. Organization member Lisa Bergmann said the group was founded in September in reaction to the “crisis levels” of youth violence and unemployment in New Haven, and its primary goal is to advocate for job creation legislation.
“We are here to express how we feel,” said Scotticesa Marks, a New Haven high school student and one of the demonstration’s organizers, “I feel as though [this year’s] deaths could have been prevented if people had been occupied.”
Like many of the protesters, Marks said she believes that expanding job opportunities for New Haven’s young people will lead to more stable communities and an overall safer city.
Before the march, Rev. Scott Marks from the New Growth Outreach Ministries held a candlelight vigil to honor and remember all of the youth lost to violence this year. Protesters then marched around the Green from the corner of Elm and College Streets to City Hall.
As the demonstrators marched around the Green, they chanted, “More jobs, better life.”
Shaylah McQueen, a 17-year-old senior at James Hillhouse High School, said she had worked with the New Elm City Dream to organize the march, increase the group’s membership and circulate petitions in support of legislation for more jobs.
“We’re not an organization that just talks, we get it done,” McQueen said.
The New Elm City Dream meets every Thursday night, Bergmann said, to discuss action plans of how they can influence local and national legislation for job creation. She added that members as young as 10 years old have been gathering signatures on petitions in support of President Obama’s American Jobs Act and Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act.
On Oct. 24, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution in support of the American Jobs Act and the efforts of the New Elm City Dream. When Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez met with President Obama last week, he brought a letter from the New Elm City Dream, Bergmann said. The letter details the range of issues faced by youth in New Haven and expresses support for the American Jobs Act.
“Youth jobs legislation has the potential to give the city the future it deserves,” said Charles Nixon, a long-time New Haven resident who said he lost his great-niece and nephew to city violence last year.
The American Jobs Act would create $38 million in funding next fiscal year for the state’s community colleges, according to a New Elm City Dream press release.