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by Richard Mellor
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004 at 11:04 AM
Cops step up harrasment of picketers at Palace Hotel. Now passing drivers can't honk in support.
I visited three picket lines today and picketed about half hour on each. The first was the Westin Hotel. The mood wasn't bad but one guy told me that people were feeling a little worried as the hotel won't let them back at work after the strike deadline ends today. They are now locked out.
The most spirited picket line I attended was at the palace Hotel. As soon as I left the subway I could hear the whooping and yelling. The mood here was much angrier and some of the pickets told me that they were told they were not allowed to hold up signs calling for people to honk their horns in support.
I had a hard time believing this but then the picket points a few yards down the street where the cops had stopped a car and was ticketing the driver. Then, a phone company van drove by and he honked in support and the cops pulled him over and ticketed him. Some of the pickets went down there to harangue the cops about it and to show support for the driver.
I walked back and stood with some other pickets who were banging sticks against their signs and making lots of noise trying to encourage drivers to support the line. I had walked away from the picket line a bit as I had got in to a bit of an engagement with the scabs as the workers booed them. The union official came up to me and told me not to say anything to the scabs.
As we were standing there shouting and chanting, a semi came up to the corner and was about to make a left turn on to the street adjacent to the hotel and honked at us. The cops immediately went over to the truck and one got on the running board. Some of the pickets went down to support him booing the cops and stuff so I went down with them feeling very encouraged. We wanted to show our support for the trucker that showed his support for us.
Out of the blue comes the labor official again, a woman in her late twenties or thirties. She got in front of the cops and started to wave the pickets back, told us to leave the cops alone. I started to say something about abandoning the trucker and she told me that if I didn't get with the program I can leave her picket line. It is difficult when you are there in support but I complied with her directive as did all the pickets. One of the Local 2 guys said to me that "we can't do nothin'". Picketers support for the trucker worked, he didn't get a ticket and I think the cops actually stopped doing it as it was creating to much of an angry response.
As we left this trucker to the mercy of the cops I couldn't help thinking how it must have looked to him. He honked in solidarity with striking workers, the cops came to punish him for it, the workers came to return the solidarity by having a presence and shouting at the cop and the Union official broke it up.
The amazing thing was that no one was doing anything illegal, just making noise.
This was the most spirited of the picket lines I was on today and it was clear that the aggressive approach by the police was pissing people off, plus, as one striker said, "it's demoralizing seeing people cross the line every day and not doing anything about it." I was told by one Palace striker that the hotel owners have an office across the street and they're always calling the cops about noise. This worker said that we should occupy the office which was a good idea.
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