PARAMOUNT (CNS) - At least nine Walmart protesters were arrested today after they blocked Lakewood Boulevard and refused to leave, according to a variety of sources.
The arrests -- which took place about noon -- were peaceful as the Walmart workers sat down in the street as their fellow supporters were chanting and throwing flowers onto the street, the sources said.
"The workers blocked traffic in both directions on Lakewood Boulevard until they were arrested," a video photographer at the scene told City News Service. "The action was totally peaceful."
The demonstration was held to focus attention on what workers say were poor wages and bad working conditions in Walmart stores.
The protests took place on "Black Friday," one of the busiest shopping days of the year and a day which Walmart spokesman David Tovar claimed in a written statement, was the "best ever Black Friday" for the retail giant.
Tovar, however, made no mention of the worker protests that were occurring across the country or their claims of low pay and poor working conditions.
Several protesters reportedly carried signs that read, "Live Better, Invest in People" and "Can you live on $8 an hour?"
The protest was preceded by a news conference in the parking lot. The crowd was estimated at about 400 people, sheriff's Sgt. Dale Ryken told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Ryken told the publication that law enforcement agencies monitored Internet activity and that it appeared the protesters were looking for volunteers to get arrested today as part of a peaceful civil disobedience action.
"We've had no incidents of violence or anything like that," Ryken said.
Workers at Walmart stores from throughout Southern California began walking off off their jobs today about 5 a.m., according to media reports.
The protests were organized by the United Food & Commercial Workers union and were joined by members of the clergy, community organizations and other supporters, the reports said.
"Only a handful of associates" were expected to participate in "UFCW publicity stunts," Walmart Senior Director of Community Affairs Steven V. Restivo said.
Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, has long been targeted by organized labor seeking to unionize its workers.
Because Walmart is not unionized, "the extent to which unions can influence Walmart's labor practices is pretty limited," Anthony Dukes, an associate professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business, told City News Service.
"My guess is I don't expect Walmart to somehow change their labor practices simply because of the union's protests," Dukes said.