FORTUNE — The movement among fast food workers demanding higher pay, access to benefits and the right to unionize without retaliation took a new turn today after police arrested protestors at McDonald’s
annual shareholder meeting in Oak Park, Ill.
It has been reporter that about 100 protestors were taken into custody at the company’s headquarters. Police issued two orders for protestors to get off of McDonald’s property, and, when many refused, they were arrested for trespassing. Police on the scene wore riot gear, including face shields and vests.
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This marked the first time that the campaign, launched in New York City in the fall of 2012, had engaged in acts of civil disobedience. Around 120 of the protesters, all low-wage McDonald’s workers, put themselves to be in position to be arrested outside of the annual meeting — an event which was closed to press despite reporters having been allowed in past years.
Last week, thousands of fast food workers walked out of restaurants in more than 150 US cities and 30 different countries in an effort to win higher wages and the right to form a union.
Various news outlets reported that McDonald’s had told employees at its corporate headquarters to stay home during the protests because of potential traffic problems.
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Devonte Rice, a McDonald’s worker from Charleston, SC. who attended today’s protest, said that he was fighting to unionize because he knew that it would “have his back” as he continued to work in food service. He has been working at McDonald’s for a few months, and earns $7.25 a hour. Previously, he worked at a Burger King
. Rice told Fortune before the protest that he was “willing to put his life on the line” to help the fast food workers achieve their goals.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman said in a statement about the protests: “We respect everyone’s rights to peacefully protest. We are focused on welcoming our shareholders to McDonald’s annual meeting.”
The move to include civil disobedience in the protests are growing impatient with the lack of response from the McDonald’s, said Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fast Food Forward, the group organizing the protests.
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“The campaign is constantly developing,” Fell said. “People are really upset and they’re ready to fight.”
Eddie Foreman, a McDonald’s maintenance worker in Opelika, Ala. who attended the protest, said he is also seeking higher wages and the right to unionize. He said that even if the company increased wages, it is unlikely to give employees benefits like health insurance without a union. Foreman, who has four kids and earns $7.75 an hour, said that insurance is important in case a worker or someone in their family get sick. When he first started a McDonald’s, he recalled being told that “Crew Care,” a form of limited health insurance, would be available. But that did not turn out to be the case.
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Fells, the protest organizer, said he is confident that moving the campaign to this new level will be successful in swaying public opinion in favor of the workers. He believes that “these workers have successfully captured the hearts and minds” of many Americans.
A recent McDonald’s regulatory filing listed potential problems with wage disputes as a risk for the company in the future.
“The increasing focus on workplace practices and conditions and costs and other effects of compliance with U.S. and overseas regulations affecting our workforce and labor practices, including those relating to wage and hour practices, healthcare, immigration, retirement and other employee benefits and unlawful workplace discrimination, and our exposure to reputational and other harm as a result of perceptions about our workplace practices or conditions or those of our franchisees,” the company said