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article imageInside the Black Friday protests at Wal-Mart Special

By Justin King     Dec 1, 2013 in World
Avon - This year’s Black Friday was a resounding success financially, but protests raged across the nation. Activate CT organized one such protest in Connecticut. Two of the organizers discuss the protest in detail with Digital Journal.
The protesters engaged would-be shoppers while handing out flyers, though were quickly moved off the shopping plaza property. That process was expedited by the fact that local law enforcement was conducting a toy drive just outside Wal-Mart. Rebecca Burton and Shannon Watson of Activate CT openly discussed the protest, some of the reasons behind it, and what they want the average citizen to take away from the protest.
The Interview
Justin King
OK, so the main and easiest question: Why protest Wal-Mart on Black Friday?
Rebecca Burton
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day in America. It's the best day to get the message out because more consumers are focusing on shopping that day than any other. The problems exist all year long, but Black Friday is an opportunity to bring a laser focus to the issues.
Shannon Watson
It's also, if you watched any videos or checked twitter, a big Wal-Mart day I mean for #Walmartfights to actually be a "thing" is horrifying to me.
Rebecca Burton
Not to mention the Wal-Mart Death Count. Sorry, the "Black Friday Death Count."
Shannon Watson
So many people, paid so poorly, made to leave their family on a holiday where we are supposed to be "Thankful” for what we have, in order to work so people can push consumerism to the extreme.
Rebecca Burton
Black Friday has become the High-Holy holiday for America. What better day to protest Wal-Mart’s excess and ruthless greed?
Shannon Watson
And why Wal-Mart? Here is a list, I think it was Ralph Nader that said Wal-Mart is the 800 lb Gorilla, and it's true. You cannot ignore them when you are looking at corruption in this country. Why are they allowed to operate in this way?
Justin King
Could you define the excess and ruthless greed you're talking about? You say you want to bring attention to the issues, which issues specifically?
Untitled
Shannon Watson
Rebecca Burton
When I say excess, I mean...The $13 million pension that the ex-CEO will be making off with, the fact that a handful of people connected to Wal-Mart hold more wealth than the bottom 140 million Americans, and the fact that Wal-Mart makes $12 billion/year in profits. Ruthless greed is paying their employees less than $9/hour, expecting the taxpayers to pick up the tab for their employees' government assistance (due to them making so little at Wal-Mart), to the tune of almost $1 million per store! That's per year. And the average store pays only $8400 in taxes!! The average American pays $8200. That's insanity.
Shannon Watson
For me personally, I don't hate profit or capitalism. This seems like a whole new level though, I think when Sam Walton started Wal-Mart he was a smart businessman, now it’s all about profit and keeping Wall Street happy. The best way to do that is cut cost in any way possible; shipping as much work as possible overseas, keeping wages as low as possible.
Rebecca Burton
I have become an anti-capitalist over the past couple of years. Capitalism is at the root of so many of our economic issues. Wal-Mart’s unfettered dominion over the American market is a perfect example to me of why capitalism doesn't work.
Shannon Watson
It has become a fuzzy line between companies like Wal-Mart and the federal government. It just seems unreal to me that a store costing taxpayers approximately $900k a year in subsidies to the employees is only paying 8,400 in taxes.
Justin King
So what is the solution to capitalism, in your opinion?
Shannon Watson
Yes, Rebecca and I disagree on this. I think capitalism can work, however, you need to take Wall Street out of it. The customer is no longer the person making purchase or that you are providing a service to; it has become the stockholder. I would say legislation that puts some controls back in place. It seems we have legislated small business, entrepreneurs and the average person to death, but big business and Wall Street just keep on rolling along.
Rebecca Burton
I don't know. A wise person once said that to be a revolutionary means to ask the right questions, not necessarily to have the right answers (or something like that). I'll leave the solutions up to someone smarter than I am. But the question I won't stop asking is, "What can we do better?" Because this ain't working.
Justin King
Ok, so how did the protest go?
A protester outside Walmart
A protester outside Walmart
Shannon Watson
Rebecca Burton
It was very well attended - about 40 people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Shannon Watson
Very positive. We started at the front of the store
Rebecca Burton
We had Occupy folks there, labor, practiced activists, and even a couple from New York who stopped by because they were in the area visiting family. All ages as well, from elderly to infants.
Shannon Watson
The PD was doing toy drive out front. So, we got moved pretty quickly.
Rebecca Burton
Yeah, we were surprised by the toy drive.
Justin King
How did they move you?
Rebecca Burton
First a low-level manager came out and said we had to go. We took that as a "suggestion." Then the assistant manager came out. We refused to leave until the police said we had to.
Shannon Watson
Oh, and I just want to add that Avon PD has a armored Military Vehicle, I guess just to bring out to toy drives? And they produced a letter from the property owner. We still are not really sure who that was, they would not say. Although it is called Wal-Mart Plaza so...
Rebecca Burton
We sent a delegation in (with a police escort) to make sure we understood the parameters of where we were supposed to go. And then, we slowly made our way out to the grassy area between the parking lot and the street - Route 44, which is a busy road.
Shannon Watson
Very, very, slowly.
Justin King
How did people respond to your presence?
Shannon Watson
Great!
Rebecca Burton
Almost everyone was interested in what we had to say. People took fliers, asked questions. Some were even ashamed that they had shopped there that day.
Shannon Watson
Lots of horns and waiving, we handed out hundreds of flyers to people coming in and leaving
Rebecca Burton
"Um, I don't usually shop at Wal-Mart. I don't even know why I did today."
Justin King
If you had free reign to say anything at all to the readers, what would it be?
Rebecca Burton
I would ask: Are you okay with your tax dollars subsidizing a business that turns a $12 billion dollar profit? And if so, why? One of the other things I found interesting and rather horrifying is that Wal-Mart represents, and this is a conservative estimate, 11% of the US trade deficit with China. Do we want one company to have so much power in our economic system? Are we banking on the fact that Wal-Mart is too big to fail?
Shannon Watson
Yes. The trade deficit is a huge issue for me, and not addressed often. Those are all jobs lost from this country! Start asking questions, and realize how powerful your dollar and your voice are! Not everyone has the choice where to shop or where to work but if you do put some thought into those choices and make them count. Realize that that great sale isn't always as wonderful as it looks and you’re paying for it one way or another. I also want people to understand that yes just one person does make a difference. Each new person that speaks up, educates themselves, shares information, stands on the sidewalk in front of a store, stops shopping at a store, or just goes there less. It all adds up and it will eventually cause things to shift. I really would love to comprehend the reason Wal-Mart is getting such insane tax breaks.
Rebecca Burton
Part of what happens is that companies threaten to leave an area if they don't. Like what happened with Boeing in Washington state. But they're getting huge federal tax breaks and subsidies as well, of course. It's the same with the oil companies. Basically they help write the legislation, and of course, it's going to protect them. The line between government and corporation has truly been blurred into nonexistence.
Shannon Watson
It has Rebecca. It all comes back to "follow the money." People say "Why protest Wal-Mart? Why not protest the government?" Well to me, I kind of think they are all one at this point, and I want to hammer away at this issue from every possible direction.
Rebecca Burton
I truly believe that corporations hold more power than government at this point. But it's our job to change that.
Untitled
Shannon Watson
More about Walmart, Protest, Black friday, activate ct
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