How to Protest a Sprouts!

Last week’s ‪#‎BoycottSprouts‬ action was a huge success! The old bait and switch tactic worked like a charm. Over 10 management and 17 police officers gathered down in Daly City, preparing for us, but Occupy the Farm and allies went back for a visit to Walnut Creek. Shop-In, mic checks, a rally outside, costumes and theatrical productions of environmental destruction… It was a good night had by all, and definitely one that will be making it back up to Sprouts headquarters.

 

Check out this great report back from the action and background on the struggle written by a local neighbor! Consider this a step by step in how you, too, could organize a Sprouts protest!

 

On Wednesday evening, 5/13/15, a group of intrepid folks from Occupy the Farm gathered to do a last-minute check-in and plan for our direct action at a Sprouts Farmers Market store. Our purpose: Protest the proposed plan for the paving over of a portion of the south side of our beloved Gill Tract in order to build a new Sprouts at that location.

 

Just a little background:
Gill Tract Farm in Albany, CA is the last 20 acres of historic farmland in the Bay area, and is held in the public trust by the University of California, and belongs to all of us. The University has been trying to pave it for 2 decades, in its endless search for ways to increase its revenue, but the small income they would make from leasing this land to private companies is a drop in the bucket compared to their massive budget shortfalls from mismanaging our public resources. People in the surrounding community in Albany and across the East Bay strenuously object to paving over this wonderful, historic section of farmland in the East Bay. Gill Tract has been used for decades as an agricultural research site. The northern section of the Gill Tract, thanks to the massive protests of Occupy the Farm and the community in 2012, is now protected as agricultural land for ten years and will not be developed for business and non-agricultural purposes until 2022.

 

However, the south side of this public land is still under threat of being paved and privatized any day, and the anchor tenant of the commercial development is Sprouts “Farmers Market”. Sprouts present itself as a “farmers market,” but it does not obtain most of its produce locally, it does not pay its employees well, and it fights labor and unions. Many of its products (much like another so-called “natural” store owned by a monster corporation) are not natural or organic or healthy. This is merely a corporation and big business as usual, masquerading as a healthy, consumer-oriented and environment-friendly entity.

We’ve been saying, NO! We want a REAL Farmers Market on historic Farmland.

10408108_874277622635399_2336148484546418117_n 11054354_874277665968728_4305938847916528050_n 11062312_874181392645022_8497643304706770342_n

What happened Wednesday!
After preparing and making plans, our group of concerned farmers and neighbors caravaned out to the Sprouts market in Walnut Creek with banners, costumes, and good will.  We arrived in waves of small groups, an unassuming group of your regular neighborly shoppers.

We grabbed shopping carts and started browsing through Sprouts, slowly filling our carts with various items – many overpriced and not so healthy. Some of us did some invisible political theater- engaging with other shoppers in the store about the weird hypocrisies we noticed.
20150513_194638
Huh, isn’t it weird how they’re calling these bananas from Peru local?

 

11253638_443231499172409_4451434629257896572_o
I love “natural” white bread and “farm fresh” banana bread mix!

 

 

Suddenly the call of “Mic check” rang out, and the pleasant consumer experience was broken. Spread out throughout the store, we started repeating back the mic checks so that all shoppers could hear us. We imparted information to our fellow shoppers, such as the fact that Sprouts is not a “real farmers market,” that it is a big corporation, that it doesn’t obtain much of its food locally, and that they have been busting up unions and violating workers rights.

 

Some shoppers looked curious, some puzzled, some amused, and a few were annoyed. We handed out informational fliers and chatted with some customers. Management was remarkably low-key.

 

We sang songs and kept rolling the mic checks as the employees gathered to discuss what to do- almost all of their managers and decision-makers were waiting for us down in Daly City!

 

 

11269772_443231479172411_3724786591167597890_o

 

The police finally arrived – only a very few – after about a half hour. We overheard the cops telling management they could have us all arrested right away. At that point, we all abandoned our shopping carts and marched outside for a rally.

We spread out some large banners – reading “Public Land for the People” and “Farms are for Farming” and continued to sing songs and chant. We also had an energetic percussionist helping us out on hand drums. One favorite song was “Sprouts, Sprouts, just pull on out, This is a deal we can do without, Come on, we’re talkin’ to you, come on…” sung to the tune of the 80s tune “Shout” by Tears for Fears. (Try it…. it works really well!)

 

We get our musical inspiration from everywhere, even the 80s… Direct action at Walnut Creek #Sprouts protesting proposed destruction of farmland to put in a corporate #Sprouts store at #GillTract. #BoycottSprouts #GillTractDefense

Posted by Singn Play on Thursday, May 14, 2015

We had some great produce joining us – a singing, chanting bunch of grapes and a nice stalk of broccoli, who went running through the store at one point, wailing and running in a panic from a Sprouts bulldozer that was trying to plow them under!
We then paraded back in as a procession of chanters, including our friendly grapes and broccoli, and even the bulldozer, who seemed to have cooled his jets, marching through the store with our banners.

Our point was made. A few shoppers learned a few things. The police and the management distracted back at Daly City learned that we were thinking one step ahead. Some tweets, photos, videos, and posts were sent out to the world; and a good time was had by all.

We called it a day, and headed home.

Find out more! Get involved!
If you’d like to see more tweets and videos of this action, take a look at the timelines for @Occupyfarm, @SingnPlay and @No-Latch on Twitter. Also the Facebook pages for Occupy the Farm and for Singn Play.
And please consider becoming more involved with Occupy the Farm and the efforts to save all of Gill Tract from development and preserve it for community farmland and uses. You can also come on down to Gill Tract Community Farm to help at the community garden by doing some actual farming and other chores. It serves a great purpose – feeding people for free – and it’s also good for your mood and spirit!
More info about direct actions and the struggle to save Gill Tract is at the Occupy the Farm Facebook page. And info about volunteering and work at the farm is at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm Facebook page.