Occupy Seattle plans protests at Seattle's Westlake Park and at Walmart in Renton. At Walmart, an organizer says, the goal is "conversation." How much of a conversation shoppers will want when running to grab a 40-inch LCD television going for $248 remains to be seen.
At Westlake Park, on a rain-deluged Tuesday afternoon, a guy named Travis Williams is setting up his stand called The Nutty Bavarian, which for five bucks sells a paper cone filled with cinnamon-glazed almonds, cashews or pecans.
He is trying to figure out what the latest Occupy Seattle protest at the downtown Seattle park, scheduled for Black Friday, is all about.
After all, Williams will be in the middle of it, selling those glazed nuts.
A news release from Occupy Seattle says the day-after-Thanksgiving protest — one of the biggest shopping days of the year and dubbed Black Friday because it could tip stores into the black, or profitability — is “to promote alternatives to the rampant consumerism that plagues society.”
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It’s going to be a noon-to-5 event, featuring speakers on, naturally, the “consumer epidemic,” music from such groups as the “Occupy Chorus,” the “Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society,” and a booth to make homemade holiday gifts.
Also scheduled is a caravan that will depart from the park to the Walmart in Renton, to march on the sidewalk in front of the store, and perhaps to also leaflet people in the parking lot.
Neal Bernstein, the Occupy organizer of the Walmart protest, says he expects 50 protesters to make their way to Renton with such signs as, “The high cost of low prices.”
He says about showing up at Walmart: “We’re not here to cause trouble. We’re here to create a conversation.”
How much of a conversation shoppers will want when running to grab a 40-inch LCD television going for $248 remains to be seen.
In an email, a spokesman for the Walmart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., had this to say: “Customers know Walmart is focused on serving ‘the 99 percent.’ We’re helping to lower the cost of living for millions of Americans by providing more convenient access to healthy food and making basic financial services more affordable for underserved customers.
At Westlake Park, for sure, Travis Williams is no big-time merchant.
But a $5 cone of glazed nuts kind of fits that consumerism thing, doesn’t it?
“America is about revolution. I don’t have anything against that,” says Williams. “I don’t mind them protesting, as long as it doesn’t affect my business.”
He is 30 and doesn’t look very Bavarian. He’s African American and came to Seattle from New Orleans six years ago after Katrina.
He worked construction for four years in Seattle until the economy soured. Earlier this year, he plunked down $5,000 for the equipment from The Nutty Bavarian franchise.
“I’m not Bavarian, but I am nutty,” he tells customers who can’t help ask the obvious question.
For 10 percent of sales, Williams has a deal with Seattle Parks and Recreation to set up shop. He was at Occidental Park and doing well during the baseball season.
Then he moved to Westlake and ran in to Occupy Seattle. They definitely were not the kind of consumers who spend $5 on glazed nuts.
With the cops having cleared out protesters’ tents and their move to Seattle Central Community College, Williams has high hopes for the holiday season.
“I just want to make a living,” he says. He says about Occupy Seattle: “Their message is kind of cluttered.”
Another of the organizers of the Black Friday protest is Alianna, 31, who says last names aren’t important in the movement. She is a 1998 Nathan Hale High graduate, who then earned a degree in government and international relations. She ended up working in facilities management, including at Starbucks, until she got laid off.
She explains why she joined Occupy Seattle: “It was the same week that Bank of America announced the layoffs of 30,000 employees and a $5-a-month debit-card fee. I couldn’t stand this level of corporate greed.”
At Westlake Park, meanwhile, Williams says he’s sympathetic, but he’s got glazed nuts to sell.
He says, “You can’t tell people how to spend their money.”
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org