Accompanied by a giant bejeweled inflatable "fat cat" squeezing a slightly deflated American construction worker, about 100 union Carpenters picketed outside the Convention Center on Friday morning.
High school English teacher Rehema Clarken wanted to hug them.
"Freedom of speech is such an amazing thing," said Clarken, of Michigan, who, now teaching in China, said she has a new appreciation for civil liberties in the United States.
Clarken, visiting the Convention Center for a gathering of 4,000 Advanced Placement teachers, had no clue why the Carpenters were picketing. She didn't know that the Carpenters, members of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, were protesting their ousting from work at the center. They were joined by a smattering of Teamsters.