An estimated crowd of 2,500 people yesterday in Austin, Texas, formed a human chain to protest the proposal for a Wal-Mart chain store. As Sprawl-Busters reported in December and January, Wal-Mart is trying to force neighbors to accept a 225,000 s.f. superstore. But even in Texas, some things can be too big. Residents have been lobbying against Wal-Mart’s proposed Northcross Mall location for several months, but yesterday’s rally was one of the largest outpouring of opposition to any big box store in Texas, and the nation. “We’re going to link arms around Northcross Mall in show of support for our alternative for Northcross Mall and in a protest against this type of development,” the group Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N) told Channel 8 News. “Actions speak louder than words. And sometimes people have to actually see the level of support or outrage that the citizens have through forms of protests like this. What you’re seeing here is literally thousands of people that are coming together representing the neighborhoods of the town and are saying we’re just really committed to making sure these things don’t happen.” The Austin residents dressed in red, and joined hands to form a human chain circling the Northcross Mall, which first opened in 1975. The city approved the developer’s plans for the Wal-Mart in August. The project is currently on hold for a two month period, to give Wal-Mart a chance to meet with neighborhood groups. Wal-Mart claims that the group RG4N has not invited the Arkansas-based retailer to meet with them. RG4N has called for Austin residents to boycott Wal-Mart stores. State Rep. Elliott Naishtat told the American-Statesman newspaper, “I hope that Wal-Mart gets the message. Getting nearly 3,000 people to stand tall on an overcast, cold morning in Austin is incredible.”
This protest is similar to one we held several years ago in Hood River, Oregon, where several hundred people walked around the perimeter of the downtown to show how large a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter would be. That store was never built. This Austin demonstration is one of the largest that have ever been held in the country. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Austin.” Human chains, not superstore chains.