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BEVERLY HILLS : Janitors Stage Protest Over D.A. Actions


Demonstrators from a union of janitors marched on Beverly Hills City Hall on Thursday, protesting the city's arrest and prosecution of 49 supporters of the labor organization three months ago.

About 125 members and supporters of Justice for Janitors took part in the peaceful protest, marching down Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard to present the "dishonorable mention" award to City Hall administrators, naming Beverly Hills an "Enemy of Justice."

Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti was also criticized for his office's prosecution of the demonstrators, said Jono Shaffer, local organizer for Justice for Janitors.

On March 29, police arrested protesters who staged a sit-in at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo, blocking traffic for almost two hours.

The arrestees, members or supporters of the Service Employees International Union, Local 399, are now faced with tens of thousands of dollars in fines, long probations and--in one instance--jail time, Shaffer said.

Forty-eight protesters were arrested and charged with blocking a public right of way and failure to disperse. One woman, Aura Marina Estrada, 36, of Los Angeles, faces an additional charge of resisting arrest, police said.

Although no pleas have been entered, a court commissioner has indicated that the 48 facing the misdemeanor charges will each face one year probation and 20 hours of community service. Estrada could serve 10 days in jail, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Hart.

The demonstrators will also be charged for $12,000 in police overtime costs, Hart said.

On Thursday, the demonstrators blew whistles and chanted "No justice, no peace," as they marched about seven blocks to City Hall in the 400 block of North Crescent Drive.

Dozens of police in riot gear blocked the entrance, while protesters made brief speeches.

When organizers tried to present a protest petition to City Manager Mark Scott, they were told he was unavailable. Instead, police blocked Scott's door and a City Hall aide accepted the petition.

Thursday was International Justice for Janitors Day, the five-year anniversary of the brutal altercation between Los Angeles police and demonstrators in Century City in 1990. About two dozen demonstrators were injured by police during the half-hour confrontation, and about 40 were arrested.

More than a dozen rallies and demonstrations were scheduled to take place across the nation on Thursday, Shaffer said.

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