Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy SLC Targets Walmart

Posted By on December 12, 2011, 4:00 PM

Like the grand marshalls of a parade of pissed-off truckers, Occupy SLC protesters slowed semi-truck traffic in and out of the Walmart Distribution Center to a crawl by slowly riding bicycles up and down State Road 138 in front of delivery trucks and other vehicles trying to enter the retail giant's Utah distribution hub.---With more than 25 protesters and more than a dozen bicyclists harrying truck deliveries into the Walmart Distribution center, the local branch of the anti-Wall Street group, Occupy SLC, acted in solidarity with a nationwide movement seeking to disrupt Walmart business, from ports to distribution centers to even just rallying inside Walmart stores and calling on employees to organize and revolt against their employers.Occupiers started the day by quietly filtering into the Tooele Walmart and suddenly employing the group's mic-check technique of repeating coordinated chants to grab the attention of all the Walmart shoppers and employees. Inside, protesters chanted to a puzzled morning shopping crowd that "low, low prices come with high, high exploitation."

Protesters called on employees to organize for their rights and revolt against their employer before just as quickly dispersing from the location. 

Occupiers then made their way to slowing traffic along State Road 138 outside the distribution center. Here, bicyclists carrying Occupy flags first approached the center with a convoy of cars and trucks slowly following behind them. Protesters would continue to make passes in front of the truck entrance for the center, pedaling at a snail's pace every time they could get in front of a delivery truck entering and exiting the center.

Watching the protest were officers in more than a half-dozen police vehicles from the Utah Highway Patrol, the Grantsville Police Department and the Tooele County Sheriff's Office. For the most part, officers kept busy just warning protesters to not obstruct traffic. Several protesters were detained and given warnings, and at least one received a citation for riding three abreast on the road.Some officers were friendly and welcoming to protesters -- even showing them a code book and explaining how exactly they could keep their protest legal. One Grantsville Police Department patrol car, however, at one point accelerated behind a lone female cyclist and swerved around her menacingly.

Chris Harris, an occupier decked out in a zebra-patterned cowboy hat, spent most of the protest waving a flag from the street and joking and talking with nearby officers. He says the disruption sought to draw attention to the activities of the most pernicious and offensive company of our time. He blasted the retail goliath for destroying downtowns, and destroying the fabric of our communities across the entire nation -- not to mention eliminating the security enjoyed by workers in America when it comes to health care, having enough hours, livable wages and pulling the floor out from under the domestic economy by importing gross amounts of Chinese imports into the country.

Justin Kramer, who was cited for riding three abreast on the road near the distribution center, says that through an odd loophole, the city of Grantsville, with a population of roughly 2,000 people, pays to maintain the road that is dominated by the distribution center's constant flow of delivery trucks. Besides mooching off the local community that way, Kramer argues that the center creates noise pollution, traffic, actual pollution and that it depreciates home values around it.While the unique protest drew honks, citations and the occasional middle finger, Kramer says the important thing is the protest is part of a larger global stand.  

Every major port on the West Coast, including ones reaching up to Canada, are participating in this with union support, Kramer says. He says the action has even received support from as far as the Hawaiian islands and the Tokyo General Labor Union. "We are not here against the workers," Kramer says. "We are in support of uniting Walmart workers to be able to check the unethical business practices carried out by [their employer]."

Before getting back on to his bicycle to make another round, Kramer stood on the shoulder of the road as another line of trucks slowed down before entering the center, and gave the truckers a few enthusiastic arm pumps. One bemused truck driver blew his horn in response.

Check back at CityWeekly.Net for further updates on the Occupy Walmart disruption.

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