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Union awaits judge's ruling on picketing; Protests at mall site suspended in wake of injury to officer; Final arguments heard; Contractor seeks restrictions; decision expected today


A judge is scheduled to decide today whether to grant a permanent restraining order against union workers protesting at the Arundel Mills construction site.

Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller heard closing arguments yesterday from lawyers representing Carpenters union Local 101 and Whiting-Turner Contracting Corp., construction manager for the 1.2 million-square-foot mall in Hanover.

After an Anne Arundel police officer was injured by a rock thrown by protesters last Thursday, the Carpenters union agreed to stop picketing at the site until the judge renders a decision.

Union organizers testified yesterday that there is no evidence protesters from the Carpenters union were responsible for the officer's injuries.

About 200 pickets, including members of unions representing plumbers, carpenters and electricians took part in the April 13 protest.

Whiting-Turner "is trying to hold the Carpenters union responsible for the actions of the person who threw that rock," Keith J. Zimmerman, a lawyer representing the union, said in his closing remarks.

Zimmerman played a videotape that showed much of the four-hour demonstration was peaceful and noted that no one was injured or arrested during a half-dozen other protests by the Carpenters union.

"We don't condone any violence," said Gus Lester, head of the union, whose members have been protesting subcontractors' low wages and use of out-of-state, nonunion workers.

Whiting-Turner officials are asking the court to limit the size and scope of protests by the Carpenters union, which they say organized the protest with the other unions.

"This was clearly their show," Eric Hemmendinger, a lawyer for Whiting-Turner, said in his closing statement.

Hemmendinger, citing earlier cases, recommended that no more than four or five protesters be allowed to picket nonunion laborers' entrance to the construction site.

Police officers testified that the crowd was unruly April 13 and that seven protesters were arrested, three for disorderly conduct, three for throwing rocks and one for assaulting a police officer by hitting him with a picket sign.

Officers said the protesters blocked the road, hit, kicked and spat at cars trying to turn into the construction site, and trespassed on private property. About 80 officers were called to help control the crowd on April 13, including SWAT team members and police dog units.

Officer Martin Freeman, who was knocked unconscious by the rock and spent two days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, has not returned to work, police said.

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