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SEIU Protesters Disrupt Ohio Senators' Dinner, Accost Restaurant Workers


Ohio's fight over collective bargaining spoiled dinner for a number of Republican state lawmakers Wednesday evening.

Following the state Senate's vote to limit the bargaining power of public employees, a group of union protesters burst into a local eatery and confronted a small group of GOP senators who were having dinner.  The Columbus Dispatch reports:

After the vote on Senate Bill 5, seven Republican senators, including President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, grabbed dinner at the Easy Street Cafe. As the lawmakers neared the end of their meal, a group of five to 10 union supporters angry about the passage of the bill hours before burst into the restaurant and began shouting.

The commotion eventually led to pushing and shoving with the restaurant staff and owner, before police arrived to calm the situation as a police helicopter hovered overhead. No senators were involved in the physical altercations, and no charges have been filed.

"It could have (gotten physical)," said Sen. Frank LaRose, 31, a Fairlawn Republican who served as a Green Beret. "The group was agitated and they were shoving the owner, and he had nothing to do with this."

LaRose said it didn't take special intelligence training to notice that while the lawmakers were eating, a woman walked past the window several times, poked her head in the door and got on her cell phone.

"It was planned," LaRose said. "They gathered as a group and waited until they had about 10 people before they caused a disturbance."

When the group burst into the restaurant, the woman, Monica Moran, deputy director of public affairs for SEIU District 1199, raised her hands in the air, yelled "Can I have your attention?" and then shouted "something nasty," LaRose said. Soon after, the rest of the group of men and women joined in with a chant.

Restaurant owner George Stefanidis says police came after the protesters refused to leave. Witnesses said Stefanidis and his restaurant staff tried to hold the group back from the senators, but the altercation got heated when the agitators began pushing and shoving.

"They stormed through my dining room," Stefanidis said.  "I told them they had to leave, and they wouldn't.  There were about 70 people in the restaurant at the time.

"I understand [the protesters'] argument, but they should do that some other place," he added.  "It just ruined the whole night."

Moran, however, was unapologetic about the ambush.  "The moment of discomfort Senate Republicans may have felt as a result of my expressing my opinion pales in comparison to the extreme discomfort and financial hardships that public employees will endure as a result of SB5."

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