Activism: Target National Day of Protest
This post was submitted by TNG contributor, Ray Dybdahl
As many of you have probably heard, Target is in a bit of hot water with many consumers, after making a donation to MN Forward, which benefited Tom Emmer, Republican Candidate for Governor of Minnesota, where Target Corporation is based.
On the surface, both parties seem to tout job growth and business development for Minnesota, which makes sense, right? Not so much.
As a longtime shopper of Target, I was pretty upset to find out about the further details of the donation. Emmer is associated with “Christian” extremists that sing about the genocide of gay and lesbian individuals. Emmer supports a constitutional ban on gay marriage. I might not have a husband, but this guy wants to make it so I can never marry if I ever choose to. Emmer also thinks Health Care Reform is unconstitutional. Oh, let’s not forget he thinks all service workers that receive tips should work for lower hourly wages. His association with homicidal “Christians” was enough to close my wallet up. Many consumers did the same, and electronically encouraged people to stop spending at Target.
Sitting over an iced Americano, I was talking about this boycott with my best friend, Michael Paduano. Although the Target news seemed to have spread quickly on Facebook, we were still getting messages about recently changed “Boycott Target” photos, a week into it. Although Facebook is a great social networking site, still there were people in our circles who were not aware of the Target news. I’d not seen anything on the TV news or in traditional print media about the boycott. A lot of my straight friends were unaware. A lot of my gay friends were in the dark. Then it hit me. Protest. And not in the manner of online “armchair boycotting”. Not from the comfort of your home or behind the safety of your keyboard. It was time for a good old fashioned Norma Rae demonstration.
It seemed like such a great idea, but did I really want to try to organize something like that? The weekends are precious to me, and I really love my Sunday NY Times and a pot of coffee. But standing idly by, I’d be one of those armchair minions. In 48 hours, could I get people out there? My friend and I immediately began calling connections, gathering power in numbers, and firing up our friends. We took the message to Facebook. We called the media, sent out press releases, sent more messages out online, called more people, and made some color copies of graphics and choice words, easy to read, for signs. We had a pizza/sign making party the night before that rallied participants. We recruited a retired English professor to be the fact checker…..of course, the web is full of all kinds of information, and we wanted to keep the message clear and factual. The phone on “Protest Eve” began ringing like crazy in the waning hours of Saturday. Between creating the posters, and friends coming together, the phone ringing, this provided much fuel to continue. There was no going back now.
The morning of the protest, Michael and I met at a Starbucks near our local Target. I wondered nervously if anyone would show as the minutes ticked away. I got about 40 confirmations, expecting half to no-show. Some said “I’ll try to show up.” It’s not a beer bust. You’re either pregnant or you’re not. Finally, people slowly began to arrive, a steady trickle with each participant making me feel like a new father. After all, this was my ‘baby’. I was proud, relieved, and fired up.
Braving triple- digit desert temperatures, a group of 20 of us parked ourselves in front of the store. We were respectful of shoppers, many stopped to ask us about the boycott. Eventually Target Management came out. They were very polite, and just asked that we wouldn’t harass customers or block the store entry. We complied as a group but still got the message out. Many continued to shop, others turned around to go elsewhere. The TV news crew arrived, taking video and interviewing participants. We had a few people out by the main road by the parking lot entrance, you could hear honks of support from passing motorists. Audible fuel to continue. The hours passed quickly. Eventually it was time to hang it up. Strangers and acquaintances felt like family. We’d made news and television media, two sources I’d not yet seen cover the story. I’d seen people come together for a common cause. Was it worth sacrificing a Sunday with coffee and a newspaper? Yes. We got more media attention to this but even more importantly, we got Target shoppers informed, and some that took their business elsewhere. And it wasn’t hard to pull off. It took effort, but it wasn’t difficult. Conviction and belief made this happen. Anyone can do it. You just have to believe in it.
From one of the first small protests, I’ve created a national day to protest 8.15.2010. Similar events are scheduled for 8/14 as well. More about this is on Facebook at Target National Day of Protest – will you be there? The group of 20 is growing. Between the two days, almost 2500 confirmed people on Facebook are attending and organizing protests in their local communities. Participants are wearing specific apparel as well. Yet I’m surprised at how divisive this issue has been on the Facebook page. Do I wish Target never did this? Of course. Do I love Target as a store? Yes. Have they done good things in the past? Absolutely. But this is reprehensible for a company with such a great record. Boycotts aren’t meant to be convenient. I still get text messages from friends asking if it’s okay to buy the one brand of soap only found at Target – “But just the soap. I won’t buy anything else.” They go into the “I’ll try to stop by” people category. Ultimately, you make the decision to shop where you want. I would love to shop at Target again. But I don’t need a limp apology. I want a matching contribution to Emmer’s opponent, or the Minnesota Democratic Party.
We need responsible activism at work. If money that I spend on necessities or even luxuries is going to put someone in power to restrict the rights and freedoms of a class of people, I am not being a good neighbor. Saying this corporation has freedom to take my money and use it against me, is like allowing an abusive relationship to go on existing. We need to fight for what’s right, not cower and deny our liberties.
Growing up in the 80’s, I remember militant groups like ACT Up and I think we’ve gone soft. Too PC. Too complacent. Politicians, corporations, corruption, and dirty money make strange bedfellows. In all of this, I am reminded of something Yoda said. “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
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