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Florida GOP Workers Claim Intimidation by Labor Protesters


Published: Oct 5, 2004

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Bush-Cheney campaign workers in three Florida cities said they were intimidated by chanting labor union activists who showed up unwelcomed in their offices on Tuesday, protesting changes pushed by the Bush administration on overtime pay.

Dozens of union activists showed up at the Bush-Cheney campaign offices in Miami, Orlando and Tampa to deliver postcards from people opposed to the Bush administration regulations that they claim would threaten the overtime payments of chefs, nurses, police officers, journalists, athletic trainers, lower-level computer employees.

Similar protests organized by labor unions occurred in other cities around the nation.

A criminal complaint was filed with the Orlando Police Department after Rhyan Metzler, a field director for the Republican Party of Florida in Orlando, said his wrist was sprained while he was trying to stop protesters from getting through the office door. About 50 of the 120 protesters in Orlando got into the office.

The head of another campaign worker was slammed against the glass door, Metzler said.

"I locked the door to keep them from coming in. I asked them to leave," Metzler said. "I told them they were trespassing, that I had called the police and that if they didn't leave I would have them prosecuted." *

Police officers were considering filing two misdemeanor battery charges against a protester, said Sgt. Brian Gilliam, a spokesman for the Orlando Police Department.

Another protester apparently used a magic market to draw devil horns on a poster of President Bush but no vandalism charge was going to be filed because officers couldn't identify the protester, Gilliam said.

Debra Booth, president of the Central Florida AFL-CIO, described the protest as "peaceful" and said the hand of one of the protesters was cut because of scuffling at the door.

"It was a peaceful action and (Republicans) turned it into something raucous for publicity," Booth said.

In Miami, more than 100 union protesters stormed the Bush-Cheney campaign office and pushed volunteers inside, police said. No one was arrested and most of the protesters had left by the time police arrived, said Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss.

Union workers tried to leave hundreds of post cards for President Bush and demanded a meeting with Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Lenny Alvicar, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign in Miami, said about 20 volunteers, including elderly people working phone banks, were at the headquarters when the union workers came inside. The protesters chanted, tried to put stickers on the walls and removed campaign signs. Other protesters blocked the street outside, he said.

"It was pushing, it was intimidation," Alvicar said. "In some cases just more than disruptive but in fact violently intimidating volunteers."

Countered South Florida AFL-CIO president Fred Frost: "It was as civil as it gets."

In Tampa, about three dozen protesters crowded into the second-floor office of the local Bush-Cheney headquarters where three elderly volunteers, two interns and a campaign staffer were working at the time, said Wes Maddox, a Bush-Cheney volunteer.

"It shook them up," Maddox said.

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Associated Press reporters Coralie Carlson in Miami and Mitch Stacy in Tampa contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-05-04 1828EDT



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