Wal-Mart workers protesting for higher wages and demonstrators boycotting Black Friday in the name of Michael Brown, the black teen killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., found themselves at some of the same locations across the country. The Brown supporters created a bigger presence for Our Wal-Mart and its supporters. Most of the events were peaceful, except for a handful of places where demonstrators blocked traffic.
This story first appeared in the December 1, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At Rancho Cordova, Calif., on Friday, 38 people were arrested. The demonstration at a Wal-Mart Supercenter lasted from 10 a.m. to noon, and was a planned protest by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, according to Sgt. Lisa Bowman of the Sacramento police department. “The arrests were for misdemeanors, mainly refusal to follow an order,” she said. “They blocked the roadway for about 40 minutes. They didn’t enter the store, they were [gathered] along the public portions of the parking lot until they spilled over into the street.”
Our Wal-Mart members want the world’s largest retailer to pay a minimum of $15 an hour and provide full-time work. While Wal-Mart Stores Inc. does provide full-time work, protesters allege that the retailer manipulates their schedules so the number of hours worked doesn’t qualify as full time, ostensibly to avoid paying for benefits.
Some of the biggest protests were at Wal-Mart stores in North Bergen, N.J.; Pittsburgh; Washington, and Los Angeles.
In Sacramento, a group of about 60 people assembled at the Arden Fair Mall to protest the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson, who resigned from the police department on Saturday night.
The Saint Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights, Mo., was forced to close on Friday afternoon after approximately 200 protesters filled the mall. Some members of the group of Brown supporters lay on the floor to represent the dead teenager.
Approximately 150 protesters descended on Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan. Two groups of protesters entered the store at different times, marching through the aisles shouting “Hands Up, Don’t Shop.” “They were clearly inside Macy’s,” said a spokesman for the New York Police Department, adding that no arrests were made inside Macy’s. Outside, a group blocked traffic, shouting, “Out of the store, into the street.”
The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition, one of the groups that called for the boycott of Black Friday, could not be reached for comment. The Black Friday boycotts were fueled by social media.
Protests continued on Saturday in Brentwood, Mo., an affluent suburb of St. Louis, where about 100 demonstrators temporarily blocked traffic at the The Promenade at Brentwood shopping center before heading to a nearby Home Depot. Another group blocked a busy intersection in St. Louis near a Target store. Later in the day, a group of protesters entered Plaza Frontenac in St. Louis where Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue anchor the mall and in-line stores include Louis Vuitton and David Yurman. “On Saturday, we had some people,” said a spokeswoman. “All they were was wild. There were no arrests or anything. It was a big to-do about nothing. There’s nothing today. Everybody’s shopping like mad and Santa’s here.”