50 protestors disrupt start of RCGA dinner

11:33 PM, Jan 21, 2010   |    comments
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  • Richard Fleming, RCGA President and CEO.

By Kay Quinn

KSDK -- Protestors disrupted the start of the 173rd annual Regional Chamber and Growth Association dinner Thursday night at the Chase Park Plaza.

About 50 people who say they are unemployed or underemployed walked into the event chanting, "No joke, we want jobs!"

Jonathan McFarland, a spokesman for the group, says he is underemployed and works at Home Depot, stocking shelves at night. McFarland told NewsChannel 5 the protest was staged to demand local business leaders do more to create jobs. He says the protestors want an economy that works, and want companies to put people before profits.

"Obviously, it's a sign that people are hurting and part of the reason we're in business as an organization is to build the economy and to grow jobs," says RCGA president and CEO Richard Fleming. "And while it was a little unconventional, I simply went up and introduced myself to the gentleman who was leading the group and we're going to meet tomorrow."

In his speech to about 950 people at the meeting and dinner, Fleming told the group St. Louis is positioned, as the national economy begins to come back to life, to step up to our share of job creation and new economic activity. He says even in this down economy, St. Louis has 50 companies that represent 13 thousand prospective jobs and $1.2 billion in capital investment.

The RCGA says it has 4,000 local members.

McFarland says Thursday night's protest was organized in part by a group called GRO, which stands for Grass Roots Organizing. The rest of the evening went on as planned.

Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton was tonight's honoree. NewsChannel 5's Mike Bush served as the emcee.


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