Picketing for 'Santa's Slaves': Exclusive Audio of Anti-Walmart Protesters' Black Friday Plans
An audio recording of a private left-wing planning session between union, liberal, and Occupy Wall Street-connected groups held in New York City on Monday, Nov. 18, at the offices of liberal group Retail Action Project gives an inside look at the left's efforts to target retail giant Walmart on Black Friday this year.
The recording shows these leftist groups are organizing, fundraising off of and coalescing behind a series of anti-free market principles to target Walmart. The more than two-and-a-half-hour audio recording, taken by a conservative who infiltrated the planning session and provided the full recording to Breitbart News, shows organizers planning to bus people from New York City to the event at the Secaucus, New Jersey, Walmart store, on Friday morning to conduct a series of unruly protests outside while engaging in Occupy Wall Street-style behavior inside.
The activists plan to have some participants get arrested in a “civil disobedience” action coordinated with local police ahead of the event—all while engaging in behavior that compares Walmart workers to Santa Claus's elves, who one organizer likened to “Santa's slaves.”
“This is the biggest day of the year,” Audrey Sasson, the coordinator of Walmart-Free NYC, said near the beginning of the meeting.
We’re here because of Black Friday which is in less than two weeks. So tonight’s meeting and conversation is going to be about why we want to use Black Friday as a mobilization moment and why it’s really important that this is the time that really from all across sectors that people come together and they target Walmart, Walmart being the largest corporation essentially in the world. That is why we are using Black Friday to target Walmart. We have been building up towards this as a campaign; there are a lot of organizers in this room who have been working on this for much longer than I have.
Sasson’s group’s New York City-area Walmart event is part of a nationally organized day of action from the institutional left against nation's biggest employer. Sasson told planners, according to the audio recording obtained by Breitbart News, that left-wing organizations plan to target 2,000 Walmart locations nationwide across America on Black Friday. That is an increase from what she said were 1,200 stores that took heat from progressives on Black Friday last year.
MacKenzie Baris, a northeastern U.S. field organizer for another left-wing group, Jobs with Justice, noted that the left has raised funds off of these protests that total just under $200,000. “Online donations to support striking workers being off the job totaled $193,000,” Baris said later in the recording of last year’s fundraising numbers. “That’s individuals giving money online to support the strikers.”
Sasson walked those she was training through how last year’s protest was “extremely colorful” and “very energetic.” She explained how “we did some actions outside the story” and “we did some actions inside the store.” She said those who join the protest should focus on giving the spotlight to Walmart workers who join them.
Sasson said there will be “hundreds” of people there at the Secaucus protest. “We’ll be meeting up at the Secaucus, [New Jersey] store at noon,” she said.
We will have buses that will take folks from New York City, meeting up around 11 and then heading out. Then once we get there, our action time will probably be about two hours max. During that time, we’ll doing some creative work outside. We’ll be doing some leafletting, some chanting and have a [unintelligible] orchestra to kind of keep things vibrant and alive. We can talk about doing something inside the store that’s going to be fun and creative and a little subversive but in a really fun way. And the most important thing is we’re going to have workers from Walmart—associates from Walmart from other parts of the country are going to be joining us. So they’re really going to be at the center of this year’s actions. It’s really important for us that they get an opportunity to share their stories and to speak. We’re trying to figure out how and where to weave that in. We will obviously be weaving that in. And we’re going to really up the ante this year with the possibility of sort of a massive sort of action outside the store on public property not on Walmart property where some folks might risk arrest.
Shortly thereafter, the larger planning group broke up into breakout sessions to each plan different types of actions. The organizer who led the “sloganeering” group, which the conservative who infiltrated the event joined, offered up several far left-wing themes against Walmart.
That organizer, Daphne Carr of the Occupy Wall Street working group 99 Pickets, said the institutional left putting on these events nationwide want to “keep everything on message about workers’ wages and workers’ rights and respect for workers.”
“We’re not specifically targeting anti-capitalism, like ‘don’t shop at Walmart,’” Carr said. “We’re here to think about the workers, so our messaging has to be about that.” She also noted that the goal will be to get their antics into the news via media coverage outside. “Outside, we’re targeting the cameras and media and shoppers who are coming to the store who might be sympathetic,” she said.
Carr walked through which “zones” outside the store were “legal” to protest in and how protesters have to keep moving—they cannot stand still—and how they cannot put any items down on the ground near them. “Inside the store is a slightly more escalated space,” she said. “If you go in there and do anything you will be asked to leave. And if you don’t leave, [it’s] trespassing. And they will ask you to leave especially in front of all their shoppers on Black Friday.”
She then explained how inside the store, the protesters would do Occupy Wall Street-style “mic checks” until they were asked to leave. “It’s a way to do sloganeering and shouting in an organized way,” she said.
One person speaks, [and everyone else] responds. Except your response is just an echo. So it’s really just dramatic and uniform. It’s really easy to do when someone understands the principle, to organize it. So, say, like the five of us. That’s one thing we did last year and it’s really effective because security is going to go where they hear mic checking, but if others in other parts of the store start doing it, then security goes there. Then if someone over here starts doing it and these clusters start popping up all over, it’s like a mole hole and you go to hit it and the next one pops up. So that’s one tactic we can think about that doesn’t take any practice in advance. We just have to practice the technique of "mic check."
Carr added that protesters could sign Christmas carols “with the words substituted to be like about Walmart is ‘scrooge’ and ‘pay the workers.’”
“It’s easy to substitute them, [but] the problem [with that] being Christmas carols you know, if you play an instrument, they’re actually quite hard without instruments because a lot of them are very jazzy,” she said.
The point of this breakout session, Carr then explained, was to craft talking points designed to elicit negative feelings from people. “When you think about Walmart workers and wages, are there any things that you would associate with those terms?” she asked. “Like words that get your blood boiling?”
The group, led by Carr, then came up with several words like “cheap,” “scrooge,” “disparity,” which the organizer said “is a totally impossible concept to explain but it’s an ugly word,” and “fair” and “wage slaves.” Carr helped the group come up with those terms by asking them to “play popcorn” and just say “whatever” comes to their minds.
When they were discussing the terminology to use in the messaging, Carr said “one that’s used often is about elves.”
“Walmart talks about their little elves who stock the store,” she said.
And elves are a really great idea because elves are essentially Santa’s slaves. Santa’s elves are real small gnomes that work all night and they’re exhausted and they get up the next day. Workers are essentially these elves and they’re supposed to be bringing the holiday but they’re like totally exploited. So that’s one way you can think about turning this happy story of happy workers working in a happy workshop.
With the help of a group member who suggested that working short shifts costs workers more in transportation getting to and from work than they make in wages that day, Carr then came up with a new slogan: “Eight dollars [an hour] doesn’t put enough reindeer on your sleigh to get to work every day!”
After the breakout sessions ended and the group as a whole came back together, Baris spoke back up to give details on the plans for those who want to get arrested. She noted that the leftwing groups are recruiting people who want to agree ahead of time to get arrested, train them how to do so and coordinate the plans with the local police officials.
“There will be civil disobedience as part of this action which means that some people who agree in advance to risk arrest will block some part of a street or an intersection near the store like toward the end of the action,” Baris said.
This will be only people who agree and are trained in advance. Most of the people in the action will not risk arrest. There will be a smaller group that we are recruiting for who are willing to risk arrest and stop traffic together. The whole action will sort of support that with the cheering and the chanting. So just a couple guidelines—in the followup, we’re going to be sending a link where you can sign up online to express interest in this civil disobedience so you can share that with folks you know who you think would be willing to take that kind of action. There are going to be folks communicating with the police and with lawyers and with legal observers to work out the plan for the action and to share information about what’s going to happen to folks, whether they’ll actually get arrested or not and how long they will be held and that kind of thing. So look out for that and share that with anyone who’s interested.
Carr jumped back in to note that the left-wing groups will cover the legal costs for those who have been arrested. “We’ll cover the legal costs for what that’s worth, so don’t let that be an issue,” she said.