If motorists passing a union picket line want to express their support for
the workers, they typically toot their car horns. But doing that this week outside
the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where hotel workers are embroiled in a labor
dispute, got you pulled over by police.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that police issued $50 citations
to a dozen motorists "for their sympathetic honking." Many more were
warned verbally and saw their license numbers recorded.
Police Capt. Denis O'Leary said the action came in response to noise complaints,
including 20 faxed letters from neighborhood businesses. "A lot of them
are consultants, therapists," he said. "They need to talk to people,
and they can't be heard."'
Initially, O'Leary said, he asked the workers to stop holding signs that urged
motorists to "honk for health care." They complied, but people honked
anyway. So stronger measures were taken.
It didn't stop with pulling motorists over, either. In another effort to lower
the volume, the Fire Department banned its crews from sounding air horns in
solidarity with the workers. The department received six complaints about such
gestures, according to Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, who said firefighters
could be subject to discipline for violating the policy.
A hotel worker on the picket line, Harris Harada, told the Chronicle
that police went "a little overboard" in citing motorists.
"I understand people are trying to do their jobs in this area, but the
motorists are just trying to show support to us," Harada said. "They
are giving citations for that? I don't understand.''