Members of Philadelphia’s carpenter’s union have been protesting outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center for months. On Saturday, the laborers took their message inside the center — directly to attendees of the Philadelphia Auto Show.
On that much, both sides agree. After that, there’s plenty of disagreement.
John J. McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, alleges that the 200-some-odd union members who entered the auto show were “disruptive” — vandalizing cars on display and acting belligerently.
“Some of them tried to intimidate our exhibitors,” McNichol said Monday morning.
Martin O’Rourke, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Council of Carpenters, rejected accusations of damage or bad behavior, saying the carpenters spent their time at the show “peacefully” handing out leaflets.
“No vandalism, no vandalism whatsoever,” O’Rourke said. “They were exerting their First Amendment right to protest. “
One fact not in dispute: On Sunday, a judge signed a restraining order commanding the union not to interfere with the show. Both sides stipulated to the order, which can be seen below (the order is erroneously dated 2014 rather than 2015).
Despite the incident, McNichol said, Saturday saw 60,000 people attend the auto show — its No. 1 attendance day ever. “This was far and away the smoothest show we’ve had,” he said.