City Students Stage Protest at Macy’s, Melt My Cold Black Heart
posted by June 3 at 12:08 PMon
Everyone knows how much I love protests, so when I headed downtown for a student-run, pro-union rally at Macy’s on Saturday, I prepared myself for the worst.
Forty or fifty student activists from the University of Washington’s Student Labor Action Project and UW Guatemala Project gathered in front of Macy’s to protest labor abuses and union-busting in the Guatemalan garment industry.
There was, of course, one of these:
The student group crammed themselves onto the sidewalk at 4th and Pine, waving signs, chanting, and handing out fliers under the watchful, yet casual, eye of the law.
An older woman - Macy’s bag in hand - waved off a young activist with informational pamphlets, telling him “there’s no point in me taking that.”
A group of about 10 students slipped inside Macy’s for an in-store protest, lying on the floor of the department store in a show of solidarity with Guatemalan laborers who are forced to sleep in their factories. Macy’s security broke things up pretty quickly and a herd of activists came running back out onto 4th Ave. SLAP and UWGP’s ring-leaders - Rod Palmquist and April Nishimura - were, of course, immediately snatched up by security, causing a major disruption in the already loosely-knit group’s leadership. I asked one student why she hadn’t stayed with her compatriots inside of Macy’s. She shrugged and said “everyone else got up.”
Several activists ventured back into Macy’s, along with their two legal observers, to find out the fate of their comrades. Moments later, they came running back out of the store and told the group that their legal observers were now being held by store security. Two large men wearing earpieces and Macy’s vests came out and advised the group not to re-enter the store.
Nishimura sent a text message saying she was being transported to a police station. I advised the dwindling group of student activists that she was most likely being taken to the West Precinct at 8th and Virginia and they began to march off in the wrong direction. At this point, I became absolutely smitten with their goofiness. While most Seattle activists take themselves way too seriously, these kids stumbled through the day with a sense of well-intentioned reckless abandon that you don’t often see at local rallies. These kids were willing to get arrested (in fact, a voice mail I’d received from Palmquist earlier in the day promised me that someone would be), which is more than I can say for any of the local war rallies. I appreciate that kind of dedication.
When we arrived at the police station, the desk officer told the group that their friends had been released by Macy’s security. The police sergeant who had overseen the protest, advised the group that they had “the worst legal observer [he’d] ever seen” but that their friends were free to go.