NEW YORK — The realities of the messy presidential race and “Everyday Low Price” retailer Wal-Mart pierced the tony veneer of Fifth Avenue on Thursday when anti-Wal-Mart activists protested in front of Trump Tower over the retailer’s support for the Republican National Committee.
Wal-Mart donated $15,000 to the Committee on Arrangements for the 2016 Republican Convention that begins July 18, in Cleveland, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group in Washington that tracks money in U.S. politics. The retailer also claims it gave the same amount to the organizers of the Democratic National Convention.
The protest, which began at noon, disrupted traffic on Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets. Tourists looked nonplussed as they watched the scene, which filled the sidewalk and spilled into the street, while office workers seemed annoyed at having to squeeze by the mob. The coalition — made up of Making Change at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart-Free NYC, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union of the UFCW and other organizations — chanted, “Donald Trump has to go, hey hey, ho ho” and “Donald Trump, you can’t hide, we can see your racist side” and held posters that read, “Are Wal-Mart’s values the same as Donald Trump’s values?”
Audrey Sasson, director of Wal-Mart-Free NYC, said Making Change at Wal-Mart on June 23 sent a letter to Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., asking him to publicly condemn Trump and state that the retailer wouldn’t give any more money to the convention. The letter was cosigned by the Black Institute, U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute and ColorofChange.org. An accompanying online petition gathered more than 14,000 signatures, Sasson said.
“We decided to give $15,000 to the convention funds for both candidates,” said a Wal-Mart spokesman. “We gave $15,000 to the RNC and $15,000 to Democratic National Committee. What we’ve done in past election years, we’ve provided support on both sides. As a company, we believe it’s important to be engaged broadly in the political process. Our company is not supporting one candidate over another. We have a very broad customer base with a wide diversity of views. Our focus is on serving the customers and running our business. At end of the day, we have faith in the wisdom of the voters.”
Making Change at Wal-Mart said protests would also be held on Thursday at Trump International Hotels in Chicago and Washington, and at the Bank of America building in San Francisco.
The campaign includes a UFCW video titled “Do the Right Thing,” which highlights Trump’s offensive remarks and shows that companies such as Apple, Walgreens and Wells Fargo have denounced Trump by removing their support for the 2016 Republican Convention.
“This is a national day of action against Wal-Mart,” said Sasson. “In 10 days, Trump will be the presumptive nominee. We’ve been asking Wal-Mart to speak out against Donald Trump’s racist, misogynistic and Islamophobic remarks, but Wal-Mart has been silent. Wal-Mart, stop funding the Republican Party, which is such a detriment to our society.”
Diana Marino, a member of Brandworkers, said, “Our members manufacture food, and most of them are people of color and immigrants, people Trump wants to make life more difficult for. Wal-Mart is standing behind his racist comments.”