Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello Arrested During Protest

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Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, his girlfriend, and 31 other anti- sweatshop protesters were arrested Saturday (Dec. 13) in Santa Monica, California, following a demonstration march through the city that targeted Guess Jeans and local retailer Robinsons-May for carrying Guess product.
   Those detained were each given misdemeanor trespassing citations after they left a larger group of marchers and physically blocked the main entrance to the Robinsons-May store at the Santa Monica Place shopping mall, which was filled with surprised holiday shoppers. People eating in the mall's food court had to scramble out of the way of the protesters, who came carrying signs, chanting pro-union slogans, and shaking homemade noise makers.
   The protest -- which also included representatives from the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), who organized the protest, a large number of garment workers and their families, students from at least six area colleges, and religious activists -- began peacefully in a park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Then the group, which was escorted by police on horseback and led by a dixie band playing "When the Saints Come Marching In," paraded about a mile through Santa Monica to the mall, where the smaller group broke off, went inside the crowded shopping center, and blocked the entrance to Robinsons-May.
   Mall security guards tried unsuccessfully to take the anti-Guess signs away from the mob as they burst through the doors. Once the sit-down began (Morello called it "a little bit of civil disobedience"), a few shoppers managed to get in or out of the store, but they were forced to step over the protesters, and they were greeted by boos, jeers, and bright TV camera lights. One elderly woman took a swing at a Rolling Stone magazine photographer as she left the store with a number of shopping bags, striking his camera lens.
   After their arrest, the 33 were taken to Santa Monica city jail in paddie wagons where they were processed and cited, according to Morello. "We were thrown into the tank for a few hours, until they ran warrants on everybody, and had time to put our names on blacklists and what not," he laughed, during a phone interview on Monday.
   Guess has recently been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which cited sweatshops used by the clothing maker for paying workers below the minimum wage, among other charges. Last week the DOL criticized Guess for its newspaper ads, which claimed their contractors are "100% sweatshop- free."
   "Guess is one of the most exploitative garment makers in the history of the business," an agitated Morello told allstar just before the march began. "I'm here today to express my solidarity with the workers, and to encourage everybody to boycott Guess."
   When asked why he got involved, Morello said, "Because the same people who listen to Rage Against the Machine are the people who Guess is trying to sell their clothes to. [They're] counting on those people either being too stupid, or vain or indifferent to do anything about it. [But] I believe they're absolutely intelligent enough to figure it out."
   A nationwide billboard campaign, called "Rage Against Sweatshops," was launched last week and features a picture of the four members of Rage, and the words, "We Don't Wear Guess." Morello said also that the company which installed the billboards was harassed by the West L.A.-based Guess. "[They'll] go to no end to silence people who are telling the truth about their exploitative labor practices."

-Troy J. Augusto

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