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Occupy protesters find new platform in Black Friday

An Occupy Portland sign sarcastically suggests that Black Friday shoppers be conscious of buying at the traditional door-buster sales and crowded aisles of big-box stores. Activists will take to malls after recently being evicted from camps.

Associated Press

An Occupy Portland sign sarcastically suggests that Black Friday shoppers be conscious of buying at the traditional door-buster sales and crowded aisles of big-box stores. Activists will take to malls after recently being evicted from camps.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Occupy protesters want shoppers to occupy something besides door-buster sales and crowded mall parking lots on Black Friday.

Some don't want people to shop at all. Others just want to divert shoppers from big chains and giant shopping malls to local mom-and-pops. And while the actions don't appear coordinated, they have similar themes: supporting small businesses while criticizing the day's dedication to conspicuous consumption and the shopping frenzy that fuels big corporations.

Nearly each one promises some kind of surprise action on the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

In Seattle, protesters are carpooling to Walmart stores to protest with other Occupy groups from around Washington state. Washington, D.C., is offering a "really, really free market," where people can donate items they don't want so others can go gift shopping for free.

Others plan to hit the mall, but not for shopping. The 75-person encampment in Boise, Idaho, will send "consumer zombies" to wander around in silent protest of what they view as unnecessary spending. In Chicago, protesters will serenade shoppers with revamped Christmas carols about buying local.

The Des Moines, Iowa, group plans flash mobs at three malls in an attempt to get people to think about what they're buying.

"We didn't want to guilt-trip people at a mall," said Occupy Des Moines organizer Ed Fallon. "We wanted to get at them in a playful, friendly way, to support local businesses."

Protesters say the movement shouldn't take away money and seasonal jobs from the working-class majority it purports to represent. The corporations, not the shoppers, are the focus of any protests, they say. But organizers do hope their actions drive people to reconsider shopping at national chains and direct their attention to small, locally owned stores.

Trying to shop exclusively local neglects economies of scale, job specialization and other benefits that big, multistate corporations can bring, said George Mason University economist Russ Roberts.

"Don't punish yourself by not shopping where you can get the best deal; that's foolish," Roberts said.

Besides, small businesses aren't necessarily better employers in terms of wages, benefits, opportunities for advancement and other measures, said John Quinterno, principal at the public policy research firm South by North Strategies in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The protests are largely focused on shopping areas in affluent suburbs home to big chain stores. As with the entire movement, the protests bring with them a litany of causes. In addition to protests of big chains, causes include clothes made from animal fur, McDonald's, homelessness and, in Las Vegas, the low gambling taxes paid by casinos.

The formula is ideal for the Occupy protests, many of which faced evictions from large-scale encampments in recent weeks. With a large number of people in a confined space, the Black Friday protests present one of the earliest tests for the movement in its new, fragmented iteration.

Occupy protesters find new platform in Black Friday 11/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 7:36pm]

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