A new Wal-Mart supercenter opened this week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but according to local activists, the grand opening was anything but grand. Infoshop News reported that demonstrators turned shopper’s paradise into mass confusion, as the hotly contested store opened its doors. Here is the Infoshop account: “On the day of the grand opening, ten members of the defeated coalition decided to attend and voice their continued opposition to Wal-mart’s destructive, profit-above-all policies. When asked why they were fighting on in the face of an apparent defeat, what with the store having been built and going into operation, one member responded, “For me, this never was a limited battle about one store, this is a long term war against commercialization and consumerism. This is a struggle to have a voice in my own future, about what kind of world I am going to live in… ” The group met in the parking lot early in the morning and approached the store. They parked their cars in the front of the parking lot, adorned with signs that said, “Not shopping, just complaining,” “Down with the Wal-Mart Empire,” and similar messages. Before they ever reached the door, a handful of Wal-Mart suits met them and ordered them to leave the parking lot. The group turned and left without overt resistance. The group went to the sidewalk on the edge of the property, with the Wal-Mart managers in hot pursuit. Meanwhile one protestor, who was standing at a distance in order to get a better picture when the eviction took place, made it to the store. In her words, when she entered, “… there was this woman in her mid 30’s dressed in a cheerleader uniform, bouncing upping and down. It was weird, the employees were in some kind of formation and doing these cheers. Finally, when the folks in the military outfits and berets started filing in, I decided this was just getting too creepy and I’d had enough… ” She rejoined the group at the sidewalk, where management was insisting that they owned the sidewalk, and the group would have to go across the street. They refused, and one manager snidely commented, “I anticipated this, and the authorities are already on their way.” The group entered the street and began to stop cars, handing out flyers and asking customers to “think before you shop”, and explaining all the reasons that shopping at Wal-Mart was bad for the earth and its inhabitants. The police arrived and demanded that the group leave. Very early in the day television news cameras and blow-dried corporate spokesman began to arrive. At one point, two of the ten activists were being interviewed by two different TV stations, while a third was on live talk radio via a cell phone. During one interview with an especially enthusiastic and young activist, the talking head asked, “You’re 17 years old. What are you doing out here? Why aren’t you at home watching MTV?” Briefly taken aback, she replied that she didn’t buy into MTV’s consumerist vision of McWorld. After about three hours the managers returned to the store and the police left the area. Immediately folks resumed handing out flyers to passengers in cars. Over 100 flyers were passed out before the day was through. The honks, waves, smiles and thumbs-ups were too numerous to count, and increased as the day went on, probably fueled by the media coverage. Shortly before noon the group disbanded, and each went their separate way.
Another ribbon cut on another Wal-Mart — but this time, not without a reminder that something is dreadfully wrong in the heartland. We will shop until our communities drop, but more young people are getting the message that buying cheap underwear from China is not a meaningful life goal.