Laborer: Construction sites 'sprinkle' blacks in after 3rd day of protests

September 26, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"It's our city. We can't get jobs in our own city, in our own community. It's not right," Kendrick Johnson, laborer, said.

Extra police were on duty in Evergreen Park and Chicago Wednesday for the third day in a row as demonstrators rallied near construction sites for Menards and Meijer's stores --and a few blocks away where a private contractor repaired 95 Street under a city contract.

The group, made up of mostly unemployed African-American men, are demanding more construction jobs for black workers, particularly on projects in predominantly black neighborhoods. Some said Wednesday was the first time they saw blacks working at the sites.

"It takes for us to come, to get together for them just to sprinkle a couple of blacks in...just sprinkle....not hire a lot, but just sprinkle, Johnson said.

Activist Bob Israel said the contractors on the sites had hired no new African-American workers, but played what he called "musical chairs."

"Just like they just got this guy off the West Side and put him over here and got this guy off the North Side and brought him over here," Israel said.

The demonstrations were re-energized Monday when locally-famed retired businessman Ed Gardner shutdown the Meijer's/Menard site while protesting the absence any African-American laborers.

"I've consistently and persistently tried to get on this particular site for a number of months," Darryl Bannister, laborer, said.

Bannister, a 40-year-old married father of three who hasn't worked since 2009, cannot understand why he and other black union laborers are never hired.

"I don't have a real good understanding. I don't want to kick around racism but this is what it appears it is to me," Bannister said.

Meanwhile, construction on a new grocery store on the West Side shut down after the contractor said he was threatened by a group of armed men -- first demanding jobs for blacks and then cash.

"I'm infuriated with it," Alderman Bob Fioretti said.

Fioretti, who wants a new fresh food source for the neighborhood, said an investigation is underway as well as a renewed effort to hire black construction workers.

"We've got a list of names of people in and around the area. We're going to submit those to the companies that are on the site," Ald. Fioretti said.

Protestors we talked to said the demonstrations will continue, having proven their effectiveness in getting at least African Americans construction jobs.

"If we don't protest, going as an individual to one of these job sites is more than likely not going to work," Bannister said.

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