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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Capitol Hill Rally for UFCW, 5/12

Ivan, writing in a Daily Kos diary, describes today's pro-UFCW rally at the Capitol Hill Safeway (corner of 15th and John):

"The sergeant in charge asked that that the sidewalk be cleared so pedestrians could get by. The demonstrators complied. He asked that Robby surrender his mic. Robby complied (he has never needed a mic). When Robby continued, in his well-practiced stentorian tones, the sergeant told him he was under arrest and cuffed him.

I was two feet away, and I can report faithfully that the arresting officer never told Robby what the charge was. Only hours later did they say it was "obstruction."

Now, this came out of nowhere. Typical SPD overkill, it is unfortuately a fact of life in Seattle that the police enjoy making arbitrary and somewhat stupid decisions. But what was really interesting was the reaction not just of Steve Williamson of the KCLC, but of the Safeway PR dude:

"Steve Williamson of the King County Labor Council tried to go inside to negotiate with the cops. Safeway PR man Frank Jorgensen joined them. Jorgensen told me later that the arrest had baffled him; that this was the last thing Safeway needed. We found that the cops had slipped Robby out the back door and hustled him to the West Precinct.

The newspapers showed up. Four TV stations showed up. I listened to their interviews. I was surprised. Two of the Heathers went after the police spokesman and kept asking him: "What made this necessary?" "Why did you feel you had to arrest him?" They wouldn't let up. All the spokesman would say was "It was the judgment of the arresting officer that this was obstruction."

It sounds to me that Safeway, at least, is really worried about bad PR. And there's no worse PR around here than forcing a strike. I may be a bit naive, but I take this as a sign that Safeway is interested in avoiding a strike. The question is, how far are they willing to compromise in order to avoid that?

This post from Ivan also reminds us that if a strike were to happen, those of us interested in supporting the UFCW may have to battle not just Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Albertsons - but the good ol' SPD as well. But that's OK. I've inhaled their pepper spray before.
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