Police used tear gas to disperse striking meatpackers and supporters blocking the entrance to the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. flagship plant Friday, and 17 people were arrested and eight officers injured in the worst violence yet in the bitter walkout.
“We’re no longer talking about a labor dispute,” Donald Hoffman, police chief, said. “We’re talking about an out-and-out riot.”
Jim Guyette, president of Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was charged in an arrest warrant with two felonies and three misdemeanors, Mower County Atty. Fred Kraft said. The charges include aiding and abetting a riot and unlawful assembly.
The officers were injured when demonstrators threw rocks and sprayed tear gas and homemade chemicals in their faces, said Hoffman, who estimated the number of demonstrators at 350 to 400.
It was the worst violence in the eight-month strike against Hormel.
The officers suffered head and eye injuries and were treated at St. Olaf’s Hospital and released, officials said.