Arrested for Supporting Local Business: Occupying Black Friday at the Big Boxes in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City – In the early morning hours of Black Friday, 10 members of Occupy OKC discovered that chanting “Buy local!” in a crowded Walmart is an arrestable offense in the United States of America.
It all started with a group of about 20-25 Occupy OKC demonstrators doing “mic checks” at several mega retailers around the Oklahoma City area open on Thanksgiving night. “We hit Best Buy, Toys `R' Us, a Target store, and two other Walmarts between 10pm and midnight,” said Nick Saltzman, 19, one of the local occupiers who managed to avoid arrest. “It was going so well.”
That is, until the group left Oklahoma City limits and ventured into nearby Del City (recently voted “OKC's Worst Suburb” by 41% of Lost Ogle readers.) Unlike the Oklahoma City police department, the off-duty officers working security at the Del City Walmart on Tinker Diagonal were not in a tolerant mood. Maybe they were already unhappy about having to work an extra shift on a holiday when they could have been home with their families. They probably needed the extra dough, and were willing to be on the payroll of the 1%.
“We have taken a lot of steps in our stores to maintain a safe shopping environment,” a Walmart spokesman told the Daily Oklahoman. “As part of these plans, our store worked with police to have officers at the store during the (Black Friday) event.”
All of the earlier protests within Oklahoma City limits had gone off without a hitch. A group had walked in, mic checked the assembled shoppers and employees, spoke their piece, and walked out unmolested. But they did notice something interesting as the night went along: With each new store they visited, there was an increased police presence.
“It's like someone tipped them in advance that we were coming,” said Bronwyn Agnew, 23, one of the arrested protesters. “There were at least eight officers that originally arrested us, and I don't see how they could have responded that quickly if they had not been there waiting for us.”
Saltzman concurs. “There were security guards at the second and third Walmarts we mic checked that were also at the first Walmart. I mean, did they follow us around? Were they tapping our phones and listening to us?”
Chris Thomas, 33, was there to film the protest for a documentary. Although he was not actively participating, Thomas was also arrested. “I was later told by an officer in the jail that they knew we had been doing this at Walmarts all over OKC and Norman that night. He said they were on alert and waiting for us. Also the officer told me that all Walmarts in the area had been notified of the earlier mic checks.”