More on the Overpass Light Brigade: OLB is Challenging Free Speech Restrictions
Overpass Light Brigades across the country joined in support of Walmart workers and the Organization United for Respect (OUR Walmart) on Thursday night, as they took part in what the Nation called the largest US strike ever against the world’s largest employer. Using Facebook and other modern methods of mobilization, Light Brigades from at least more than a half dozen cities worked almost simultaneously at different Walmarts around the nation.
Lining up on the street, we fielded questions from various news agencies. They were out in force, trolling for stories. “Why are you doing this?” “What do you hope to accomplish?” “Why Walmart?” Shoppers zoomed by, eager to get the low, low prices synonymous with rapacious retailing. As shoppers rushed by, they either seemed perplexed by our presence, or directly supportive of us. There were a few mumbles of “I hate unions,” but it was generally positive or neutral. We added a holiday protest festive touch to their evening – our chants, noise of song from the blaring speakers, short speeches, news crews running around with cameras and crew, our own phalanx of street photographers, and a growing cluster of security and management off at stage right, emitting the dark light of questioned authority.
I attended a protest at a Walmart in South Austin. Though it was called by members of OUR Walmart, I wasn’t able to verify that any workers walked out anywhere in Austin, though there were reports of walkouts in Dallas. It was hard to blame the workers, given reports of widespread threats against worker walkouts. At the location where we gathered on Ben White in Austin, Texas Rangers were present. Rangers have a very long history of being used for strike-breaking. A Ranger, along with a group of Walmart managers, monitored protesters the entire time we were present. I was threatened with arrest for taking their photo while on Walmart property.
The protest was led instead by the Austin Overpass Light Brigade, who gathered on a sidewalk and grassy public median along the road where Black Friday shoppers had to pass their message of WALK OUT ON WALMART. The unique Walmart logo-turned-frown was especially popular. Though the group was monitored by as many as four Austin Police Department squad cars, the officers did not interfere. A member of the Peaceful Streets Project Austin was also present to monitor the action. [cont’d.]