Two picketers arrested at spin-off rally
Angry mob storms police headquarters
by David Rosenfeld
Vons picketers stand in unison at the store on Pier Ave. Photo by David
On the 99th day of the supermarket strike, Hermosa Beach Police arrested
one union picketer and an attorney outside police headquarters.
Attorney James DeMaegt, 60, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of obstructing
a police officer and Joshua Hon, 19, was arrested on suspicion of failure
to disperse. Hon's father posted his $500 bail. DeMaegt, who police said
was the main agitator, posted $10,000 bail.
The arrests came after an angry crowd of between 15 and 30 people marched
to the Hermosa Beach police station less than a quarter-mile from the Vons
on Pier Avenue where the group had been picketing.
DeMaegt said he wanted to file numerous complaints against officers who, he
said, did nothing when a Vons customer physically assaulted a picketer and
poured coffee on another.
When protesters would not vacate police premises, officers took action.
"We've tried to be as absolutely tolerant as we can," said Sgt. Paul
Wolcott. "The picketers and the union have asked the public not to cross
their line, but this time, picketers crossed the line with police."
The event marked the culmination of a larger rally that involved about 75
people in front of the store for three hours Sunday, conducting what
picketers referred to as "militant but lawful" protests that include
surrounding shoppers and heckling them.
"During this militant protesting we're more aggressive," Hon said. "We're
trained by lawyers so we know our rights."
Similar rally-type events endorsed by the union have been popping up
throughout the Southland.
Union spokesperson Ellen Anreder said she had not yet heard about Sunday's
"We've done significant training and constant reinforcement for non-violent
activities. If you cross the picket line, you're considered a scab no
matter if you're going to work or just to shop. Someone crossing will not
be welcomed with open arms," Anreder said.
Police this weekend received numerous calls from people including a
72-year-old woman in a halo-style neck brace who reported excessive verbal
abuse, Wolcott said.
According to Hon and other eyewitnesses, police officers threatened
picketers with fines if they stepped off the sidewalk, harassed a customer
or followed people to their cars.
One eyewitness said she heard a police officer say he was inconvenienced
and would make someone pay.
Picketer Jay Medina, 27, said police gave those that did not want to get
involved the opportunity to step aside.
"Considering they [picketers] have been on strike for 100 days, I'd imagine
they don't have much nice to say," Anreder said.
Pickets this weekend reached a head throughout the Southland as 15
demonstrators were arrested the same day in Garden Grove when they
allegedly blocked the entrance to a Vons during a protest that drew 1,200.
The strike involving 70,000 grocery workers throughout Southern California
has tested patience on all sides of the picket lines including those in
"For the majority of the strike we have had a great relationship, with
accommodating and protecting the public," Wolcott said.
DeMaegt, an unofficial union spokesperson and self-appointed agitator,
doesn't mince words. He compared the slow trickle of Vons customers who
don't honor picket lines to the slow acceptance of the holocaust by
Germany's middle class.
"The scab is the lowest form of humanity that ever existed on this earth,"