Ontario PD Nabs Santa Claus During Brazen Daylight Protest

(December 2) Ontario cops nabbed Santa Claus and nine of the most bold of over 100 protesters who came to the site of Ontario’s recently opened Walmart Superstore on Black Friday to register their discontent with the presence of the retail giant in Ontario and its corporate policies. Those policies include, detractors maintain, paying its workers low wages and providing them with inadequate benefits while offering a   merchandise line that originates largely with manufacturers in Communist China.
The Walmart Superstore built on the site of the long-gone White Front department store at 5th and Mountain Avenues in Ontario was previously the object of protracted legal wrangling that delayed its construction and opening by several years.
Attorney Cory Briggs, representing the Ontario Mountain Village Association, filed a lawsuit against the city of Ontario relating to its 2007 approval of the WalMart Superstore, citing seven violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. Judge Donald Alvarez upheld the Ontario Mountain Village Association on a single issue of those seven raised by Briggs, the safe circulation of delivery trucks coming into the shopping center. Early this year, after the expenditure of $1.5 million by WalMart and $673,000 by the city on legal fees in responding to the lawsuit, Briggs and the Ontario Mountain Village Association dropped their appeal of the dismissed six issues after the city made changes deemed sufficient to redress the truck circulation problem.
The four-and-a-half year legal battle over, work on the project proceeded and on October 30, the supercenter held its grand opening.
WalMart, which was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, grew to become a leading commercial retailer in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s, in large measure by promoting itself as offering an exclusively American-made product line. In 1988, Wal-Mart was the most profitable retailer in the US and in October 1989 became the largest in terms of revenue. It abandoned the marketing strategy of offering an entirely domestic-made product line in 1992, however, and has since become the leading retailer of Chinese-made merchandise in the U.S., which has invited much bitter criticism and boycotts. Nevertheless, the company remains at the forefront of the retail industry. It has also invited the enmity of organized labor, which has targeted the company for its successful strategy in preventing its workers from unionizing, maintaining wage and benefit rates significantly below the industry standard and engaging in what union officials maintain are “predatory” efforts to drive its competitors employing unionized labor out of business.
The complex of discontent aimed at Walmart coalesced in Ontario on November 29, as a well-organized cadre of Walmart protestors descended on the new store on what has become a culturally iconic event, the massive turnout of customers at retail establishments on what is hailed as the biggest retail sales day of the year, the Friday following Thanksgiving.
Among the leaders of the band of protestors that had come to Ontario on this occasion was Santa Claus, who otherwise goes by his civilian name of Karl Hilgert. Determined to strike a blow against the heartless capitalistic ethos that had given rise to the superstore paying its staff barely more than a subsistence-level minimum wage, the crowd carried signs and placards, occasionally chanting slogans intended to persuade Black Friday shoppers to spend their money elsewhere. Hilgert, in his guise as Claus, the symbol of the commercialism of the just awakening Holiday Season, provided an air of ironic sophistication to the protest. When it became apparent that scores of protestors were lining the streets, police made their presence known.
In what was either a desperate effort to discourage shoppers or a planned ploy to add emphasis to the statement of protest, ten of the protestors, including Hilgert/Claus, ventured out into the middle of the Mountain Avenue Intersection and sat down as a form of human blockade. Shortly thereafter, the police marshaled their numbers and moved out into the intersection themselves, ordering Hilgert/Claus and his cohorts to disperse. When they did not, the officers read the dissidents their rights, handcuffed them and hauled them off.
Throughout it all, Hilgert/Claus remained entirely in character, offering his persecutors candy canes.

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