The following is a report by a participant in Occupy Ann Arbor’s Black Friday action at the Saline Wal-Mart.
We were briefed beforehand. “If a police officer talks to you, you only need to say two things: ‘I am exercising my right to remain silent’; and ‘I want to talk to my lawyer.'” Our legal observer instructed us about what to do in the event that cops showed up.
It was agreed that the 20 or so of us would cross US-12 on foot, walk into the Wal-Mart parking lot, split off into smaller groups, and enter the store. After over a week of planning, we were ready to unleash our little Black Friday Surprise on a bunch of unsuspecting Wal-Mart shoppers.
We picked out the precise location a few days earlier: we’d go to the women’s clothing section and wait for a designated person to shout “mic check.” We’d pull out the people’s mic and read off from a script that we had written together, outlining the various ills perpetuated by Wal-Mart, from the outsourcing of labor, to the killing of local economies, to discrimination against women workers.
Two of us went to the store earlier in the week to do a little recon work and map out the store. The plan was to enter through each of the store’s two major entrances. We had the women’s section mapped as the place where we to assemble and do the people’s mic. Women’s clothing was a prime spot, right next to the checkout lines, the perfect place to grab attention.
In the parking lot, me and one other person broke off from the group. Walking inside, we passed the Salvation Army guy, then proceeded straight to women’s clothing. Walking through the bra section, a woman from our group crossed our path and with a wink and nudge pretended to be a stranger: “What are two men doing in the bra section?” A little inside joke. In the moments leading up to “mic check,” it was difficult to contain the simple joy of being in on the secret we were about to let loose.
Moving into position, we pretended to look at merchandise. Then it came.
The rest of us repeated.
Our legal observer pulled out his notepad and green National Lawyer’s Guild cap.
Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers.
Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers.
Our script continued.
“We are here to acknowledge that low prices, come with a high cost, both locally and globally.”
It wasn’t long before folks started to crowd around. A bald-headed manager walked to us tried to get us to turn off our cameras. But he couldn’t do anything. He told us to stop. “It’ll take a minute,” was all we told him.
At one point during the action, someone walked to one of our camera operators. “Get a job,” the person said. “We all have jobs,” our camera operator replied.
We got to the end of the script without incident. “To the employees of Wal-Mart, please know you are not to blame, know that you have a voice, you have the power to take a stand, and know that we are the 99% and stand behind you.”
In the planning of the action, there was much deliberation over what kind of message we wanted to communicate. We wanted to emphasize that Wal-Mart employees are the 99%, that we stand in solidarity with them, even as we take a stand against Wal-Mart’s exploitative practices. When we broke out the people’s mic, those who worked at the registers simply stopped and lent a friendly ear.
We left in peaceful glee. A couple of us thanked the managers for letting us speak. “We love you,” a couple of us said to the crowed.
As we exited, we saw a Pittsfield Township police officer enter the store. In the parking lot, one of us shouted, “Show me what democracy looks like.” We chanted back, “This is what democracy looks like.” We danced and skipped along our merry way.