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October 2

Bloomington: Pickets against Starbucks and McDonald’s

Submitted to It’s Going Down

Responding to the Free Alabama Movement’s proposal (in “Let the Crops Rot in the Field”) and the call for an October 1st day of solidarity with the prisoners’ strike, we picketed and flyered three Starbucks and a McDonald’s across Bloomington over two days.  We asked for customers to boycott in solidarity and tried to create at least a minimal hassle for the local owners. We agree with FAM that it is easy and simple to target those who profit off the prison system, with so many corporations plugged into the circuits of state violence and control.

Particularly during moments of crisis – like now, during the ongoing strike – this is a useful fact.  But as a long-term strategy, we have concerns, and would like to propose a focused discussion to FAM and the broad solidarity movement in order to tighten this approach.  With actions against so many potential targets or even against a single massive target (McDonald’s), it’s hard to imagine gaining much momentum let alone concrete victories.

There are many useful historical reference points of boycotts and direct action sprees, ranging from the civil rights era to recent animal rights struggles (see this for vital reflections).  The successful examples seemingly depended on focused targeting and moving up the food chain from smaller to larger targets, picking up victories along the way.  If the goal is building momentum against the system of forced labor inside prison by forcing companies to cut ties, we should consider starting with a specific corporation of a certain size – not so large that its profit margin is untouchable, but big enough to have branches or locations in many places.  Whole Foods, for example, was recently forced to announce an end of its use of prison labor.

We are not sure of this path, but it was a part of our conversation during the actions, and we’re offering it as a small contribution to the ongoing discussions and solidarity in support of the prisoners’ struggle.  We will appreciate other ideas or responses, and especially more actions!

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