Black Lives Matter-inspired protesters are taking to shopping centers this Black Friday to protest police shootings and spread their allegations of systemic racism in America.
Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, in particular, is set to weather its second consecutive year of Black Friday protests. During last year’s protest, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that some Michigan Avenue businesses suffered 50-percent losses in sales numbers from the previous year. And with the impending inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump in January looming over the country, some protesting organizations anticipate swelling participation.
“The reason we’re looking for a bigger turnout is that Trump is the president-elect and, boy, are people pissed.”
“We’re expecting a bigger turnout this year, though this is not an exact science,” Frank Chapman, a field organizer with the Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, told Crain’s. “The reason we’re looking for a bigger turnout is that Trump is the president-elect and, boy, are people pissed.”
Rather than shopping for Christmas gifts or personal items, these protesters believe that American consumers should refrain from spending their money and should reflect on racial and economic oppression. Chapman noted that many of the Chicago protesters harbor lingering resentment and anger over the Chicago police shooting of teen Laquan McDonald in October 2014 and, what they call, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s inadequate response.
“We’ve been calling everyone who has a grievance: the African-American community, Latino people, the white working class,” Chapman told Crain’s. “I’m not going to write the white working class off as racist.”
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The protesters suggest shoppers dwell on racial tensions in the United States, rather than try to get good deals on gifts for their families ahead of the holidays.
“Major chains like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target depend on our shopping to keep them afloat, especially during the holiday season but the lives of our brothers and sisters are worth more than the dollars we can save on holiday gifts,” Michael Latt, a founding member and the marketing director for Blackout for Human Rights, told ATTN:.
Latt added that instead of shopping for themselves on Black Friday, American consumers should “stand with the citizens of Ferguson, Standing Rock, Baltimore, Chicago, D.C., New York City, Oakland, Flint, and all those who have suffered atrocious race-based and class-based acts of hate resulting from police violence, racist public policies, and other oppressive forces.”
“For us, it’s less about being against Black Friday and more about using Black Friday as a platform and opportunity to have our voices heard and to spark change,” Latt said. “Our lives are joined by the money we spend as consumers. Today, more than ever, the levers of power — civic, corporate, industrial, capital — are tied to one another and to our economy.”
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Of course the protesters are willing to offer one exception. If shoppers must shop, they can patronize black-owned businesses on Black Friday.
“One of the cornerstones about why we’re boycotting on Black Friday is to attempt to redirect people to businesses owned by people of color and women, and explain why it’s important to patronize these businesses,” Kimberly Veal, a Black Lives Matter leader, told Crain’s.