Occupiers ‘Flash’ Message to Black Friday Shoppers

Movement takes action, attracts mixed feelings about effectiveness

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Balloons at an Oakland, Calif., Walmart advertise sale prices to shoppers on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Walmart opened their doors before midnight to encourage early shopping.(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

    For Occupy San Diego activists, Black Friday was a time for what they call "Direct Action.”

    Dozens blended in with crowds of shoppers at local WalMart stores -- then, suddenly, sent an anti-mass merchandise message.

    Social media postings and word-of-mouth brought them together at the Kearny Mesa Transit Center at 11 a.m. for a strategy session, on how to pull off demonstrations targeting the WalMart outlets on Murphy Canyon Road and Shawline Street.

    They agreed on a manifesto denouncing WalMart's corporate practices and role in the economy.

    "They sell hardly anything that's produced in this country," event organizer Winston Tecolote told the gathering. "They have actively resisted organized labor from organizing any of the people in their shops."

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    The occupiers then converged, separately or in small groups, on the Murphy Canyon Walmart.

    After some had loaded shopping carts, the flash mob got text alerts to congregate at the checkout lines, and an overhead page using the code name: "Michael Check" -- a takeoff on the "Mic (microphone) check!" cue that Occupy activists use as a heads-up for an assembly meeting.

    "Citizens of WalMart!" the chanted recital began, in repeat-after-me fashion. "Greetings, and welcome-back from the food coma. In the spirit of holiday giving, we believe a discussion is in order about the meaning of value and low cost."

    On went the manifesto, for nearly five minutes, ending with the refrains:

    "We do not have to buy the scam ... we do not have to buy any of this!"

    "Act locally! Shop small business! Buy American! Thank you, exit safely, and remember to smile."

    Store supervisors attempted to confront and herd the organizers out, to no avail.

    Police were called, and units responded -- but long after the disruption had ended and the flash mob evaporated outside the store, leaving a number of merchandise-filled shopping carts abandoned at the checkout counters.

    As the Occupiers moved on to their next WalMart foray on Shawline Street, shoppers who witnessed the demonstration at the Murphy Canyon store expressed mixed feelings.

    "The message was nice, that they want to do small business and support the community and all that -- Which is great," said a woman who identified herself as Elizabeth. "But at the same time, they're penalizing the people who have to work here, by having to deal with it and clean up after them. So it could have been handled differently."

    Other shoppers clearly were rubbed the wrong way.

    "This is a generation of people that want a handout," said a man who gave his name as Chris. "And they need to realize that hard work is the only thing that's gonna bring this country together and make it stronger. Period."

    WalMart media relations representatives were contacted for comment on the demonstrations.

    No response was immediately forthcoming.