16 Arrested in Carmel in Civil Disobedience
October 29, 2011
As they chanted, "We've got the power," nearly 200 protesters looked on Friday as 16 were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
Protests in front of historic La Playa Hotel in Carmel have become fairly routine over the past few months after contract negotiations between the union and owner collapsed. But facing a mass of layoffs with the hotel scheduled to change hands to new ownership Nov. 1, an unusually large crowd gathered Friday, and those who blocked Camino Real were arrested by Carmel police.
The 16 protesters who sat in the middle of the street wore signs that said, "Justice for La Playa workers." Sgt. Paul Tomasi ordered them to disperse and to clear the roadway; when they did not, police handcuffed and arrested each person in the path of traffic.
Those arrested were booked at the Carmel police station, cited as pedestrians blocking a roadway, and released. "My concern is just safety," says Mike Calhoun, interim police chief.
Sheriff's deputies arrived for back-up, and provided a second van to transport those arrested to the Carmel police station. The arrested proceeded without incident, as officers politely helped each person from the ground, asked if handcuffs were too tight and escorted them to police vans. The first arrested was Virgilia Wright, who was met with cheers from the crowd as police handcuffed her.
"I'm a little scared right now," said Karen Araujo of the Central Labor Council as she was being patted down by police officers. "I've never been arrested before."
Labor also called upon other allies in the community to join in their civil disobedience. Mel Mason, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, was also arrested. "I think this is a very much needed demonstration of solidarity," he says. "Union rights are civil rights."
"The heartache that I have for the workers, it's haunting," says Rev. Wayne Martin, who was also arrested. "It's a deeply moral issue; it's not just unjust." Martin retired from his career in the clergy two years ago.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), County Supervisor Jane Parker and former Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio also marched Friday. "I deeply believe this is a grave injustice," Alejo says. He adds that Occupy Wall Street and its local offshoots have gotten the attention of lawmakers: "We have to listen closely. We have a responsibility to protect our families."
Those arrested Friday also included Occupy Monterey protesters. Labor organizers arrested included Mark Weller, Unite Here Local 483's project coordinator, and Ron Chesshire, CEO at Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.
Union organizers are calling on outgoing owner John Cope to provide a severance package, and on the incoming ownership, Classic Hotels & Resorts, to provide a commitment to rehire the current workforce after a few months of renovations are complete.
"The reason they're trying to close down is they're trying to break the union," says union organizer Chris Fitz. "But we will close them down." The union plans to continue protesting even after the deal closes next week.