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'Occupy' activists use iPhone line as podium for protest

A group of protesters tells CNET that they have joined the iPhone line outside Apple's flagship New York City store to decry Apple's labor practices, as well as commercialism and waste.

Members of Occupy Wall Street tonight held anti-Apple placards in front of the company's 5th Avenue store in Manhattan. Greg Sandoval/CNET

NEW YORK -- A group of about 12 people who say they're part of the Occupy Wall Street movement joined the iPhone 5 line in front of Apple's flagship Manhattan store on 5th Avenue, members of the group told CNET.

Shiloh Coral, 22, and Thomas Volanos, 21, said they joined the ranks of Apple fans this evening to protest the company's labor practices in China, as well as what they see as the commercialization and waste that the company and its gadgets represent.

An Apple spokesman was not immediately available for comment. We will update as soon as we hear back.

Coral and Volanos wouldn't say exactly what form the protest might take or when it was scheduled, but one group member said that on Twitter and other social networks, organizers have begun referring to the demonstration as "Occupy Apple."

Apple is scheduled to begin selling the iPhone 5 on Friday at 8 a.m. On Tuesday, most of of the country's top newspapers and technology news outlets published reviews of the device and nearly all were favorable. A few analysts have predicted that the iPhone 5 will blow away previous iPhone sales records.

Obviously, it isn't good timing for Apple if OWS disrupts the iPhone 5 sale at one of its most prestigious and high-profile stores, or again dredges up one of the biggest controversies the company has faced recently.

In the past year, Apple has been heavily criticized for not doing more to prevent mistreatment of workers at plants in China where iPhones and iPads are constructed. The New York Times in January exposed multiple labor abuses at the plants, including low wages and long hours.

Apple has said it is serious about improving working conditions. In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited one of the plants and asked the nonprofit Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate conditions at the facilities in China operated by Foxconn, the company that makes some of Apple's products. FLA has since reported that Apple is making progress on improving conditions.

Volanos and fellow OWS member Yoni Miller 18, say Apple hasn't done enough. They cited reports of suicides, attempted suicides and forced labor at the plants.

As for the protest, Volanos said that while most people think of protests as a bunch of people yelling, OWS is focused more on "opening up discussion that people normally wouldn't be exposed to."