Unions, mall contractor await ruling on picketing

Restraining order sought at Arundel Mills after officer hurt during protest

April 19, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Union protest organizers agreed yesterday not to picket the Arundel Mills construction site while a judge decides whether to restrict protests.

Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. is expected to rule on the case today.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 101 officials agreed to temporarily stop picketing the construction site Thursday after an Anne Arundel County Police officer was injured by a rock thrown by protesters.

Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the mall's main contractor, is asking for a permanent restraining order to limit protests at the site.

The carpenters' union was among several labor groups that picketed the Arundel Mills site Thursday to protest use of nonunion and out-of-state workers to build the 1.2-million-square-foot mall in Hanover.

About 200 workers representing unions for plumbers, carpenters and electricians blocked the road to the construction site and several entrances.

According to police, some protesters threw rocks at cars that tried to enter through the nonunion labor gate.

Officer Martin Freeman was knocked unconscious by a rock and spent two days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He has not returned to work, police said during a hearing before Heller yesterday about the restraining order.

Another police officer was hit with a picket sign during that protest.

Seven protesters were arrested: one on an assault charge, three on disorderly conduct charges and three others on charges related to throwing rocks.

Police do not know who threw the rock that hit Freeman.

By 9 a.m., when the pickets dispersed, police had dispatched nearly 90 officers -- some in riot gear -- as well as the SWAT team, a helicopter and police dog units.

No protests were held during the weekend, but police say someone phoned in a bomb threat Monday morning that disrupted work at the construction site. Police do not know who made the threat.

Union lawyers said at yesterday's hearing that no one was arrested and no one was injured during protests March 20, March 21, March 24, March 29 and April 7. Three people were arrested for disorderly conduct charges during the first protest Feb. 24.

Police say the earlier demonstrations were smaller than Thursday's -- with an average of about 50 people.

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