Update 4:12 p.m. Los Angeles police have arrested demonstrators who blocked a downtown street near a McDonald's restaurant to protest low wages for fast-food workers.
Police handcuffed 10 people on Thursday. A protest organizer, Alberto Retana, says eight of those detained are McDonald's employees.
The protest was one of a nationwide series calling on McDonald's, Burger King and similar companies to pay workers at least $15 an hour.
McDonald's says the rallies didn't affect service.
Labor organizers have been campaigning for the higher wage for two years. Many fast-food workers currently earn close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — about $15,000 a year for full-time work.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed raising the minimum wage in the city from $9 per hour to $13.25 by 2017.
1:12 p.m. Some fast food workers in Southern California were joining in a nationwide strike on Thursday for better wages and union rights.
Local McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s workers are among those expected to walk off their jobs and demand $15-an-hour wages as well as the right to form a union, NBC4 reports. Workers gathered at a McDonald's in South L.A. at 5 a.m. to begin the strike, according to NBC4:
During the first hour of the strike at the South LA restaurant, dozens of fast food workers picketed and blocked the driveway of the restaurant.
"I have a 3-year-old daughter and I can barely provide for her how I want," McDonald's employee Jibri Range said.
KPCC visual journalist Benjamin Brayfield captured some of the scene in Downtown L.A. later in the morning:
Police meanwhile handcuffed several protesters in New York and Detroit as they blocked traffic.
The protests, which are planned by labor organizers for about 150 cities nationwide throughout Thursday, are part of the "Fight for $15" campaign. Since the protests began in late 2012, organizers have switched up their tactics every few months.
Before Thursday's protests, organizers said they planned to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to draw more attention to the cause. In the past, supporters have showed up at a McDonald's shareholder meeting and held strikes. The idea of civil disobedience arose in July when 1,300 workers held a convention in Chicago.
The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.
President Barack Obama mentioned the campaign earlier this week at a Labor Day appearance in Milwaukee.
"There's a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," Obama said, as he pushed Congress to raise the minimum wage. "If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."
The National Restaurant Association, on the other hand, said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to "boost their dwindling membership." The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests.
Union organizers said they expected hundreds to show up to Thursday's protests around the country. Previously, turnout has been fairly minimal in many places.
By late Thursday morning, protesters in some cities were standing in front of fast-food restaurants, chanting for higher pay and holding signs in both English and Spanish.
In New York, at least three people wearing McDonald's uniforms were hauled away by police officers after standing in the middle of a busy street near Times Square. About two dozen protesters were handcuffed in Detroit after they wouldn't move out of a street near a McDonald's restaurant. In Chicago, a couple of buses unloaded a group in front of a McDonald's restaurant, chanting "Stand up. Fight Back," while 100 people crowded on the sidewalk/
Prospero Sanchez, who was at the McDonald's in New York, said the $11.50 per hour that he gets making pizzas at a Domino's Pizza restaurant is not enough to support him, his wife and two kids. He has worked at the same restaurant for 14 years, when he made $5 an hour.
He has asked his bosses for more money. "They said no," Sanchez, 32, said.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this week announced a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017.
Another local walk-out is planned for noon at a to be announced location, NBC4 reports.
This story has been updated.
AP reporter Joseph Pisani, David Runk in Detroit, and Candice Choi in New York contributed to this report.