'Shame on you!': Angry maids greet Strauss-Kahn
Embattled former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was greeted by a group of 100 maids booing and repeatedly chanting "Shame on you!" as he arrived at court Monday for a plea hearing.
The chanting was so loud it could be heard way up on the 13th floor, in the packed Manhattan courtroom where a stone-faced Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid on May 14.
"We are supporting one of our companions who has been assaulted, and we're showing that we are not servants, we're nice people and do good work," said Joselyn Agresta, a 43-year-old Dominican working at New York's Plaza Hotel.
New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council union members stepped off a bus, complete in their black-and-white or blue-and-white uniforms. Many of them carried signs saying: "An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us."
Strauss-Kahn, who denies all charges, ignored the noisy demonstrators and the media scrum as he emerged from a black sport-utility-vehicle and entered the court building, his wife Anne Sinclair smiling elegantly on his arm.
Wearing a dark blue suit and tie and a light blue shirt, he appeared slightly more relaxed as he left the proceedings some 20 minutes later -- again to a chorus of "Shame on you!" from the protesting maids.
Agresta told AFP the noisy protest was "mostly" organized by real-life maids.
"Many people think that just because they have a lot of money, they can do anything, or that we are servants. We are making the room and they take advantage of us."
Lourdes Colon-Santos, another Dominican who works at the Hilton, said hotels should equip the maids with emergency beepers.
"We hope that justice is done, because otherwise we'll all end up on the street," Ada Velez, a 50-year-old Puerto Rican who works at the same hotel, told AFP.
Hotel workers said they would be more willing to come forward with their experiences now that Strauss-Kahn's alleged assault of the Guinean worker has come to light.
"I think that more ladies than we talk about had experienced some kind some improper behavior from the guests," Hotel workers' union president Peter Ward told AFP.
"The woman in question is a member of our union, with a perfect work record, and if you ask we who to believe, we choose to believe her."
Strauss-Kahn's arrest and quick resignation as head of the International Monetary Fund threw the global lender and economic policy powerhouse into disarray just as it grapples with debt crises in the European Union.
Many in France believe that the Socialist party figure has been mistreated, but the case has also stirred unusually vigorous debate in the country over long-taboo subjects such as sexual harassment.
Monday's not guilty plea set the stage for what promises to be a high-stakes prosecution of one of the world's most powerful men.
© 2011 AFP