Occupy Detroit Plans Thanksgiving, Black Friday Actions

11/24/2011 01:04 am ET

Those involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement plan to spice up the Thanksgiving season in Detroit, with a series of actions focused around holiday traditions.

Visitors to the city's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade can count on an appearance from Occupy Detroit, although rumors of the group planning floats and an official march seem to be exaggerated.

Jennifer Teed, who works with Occupy Detroit's Outreach and Direct Action working groups, said the group will have a "visual presence downtown and along the parade route." Although there had been talk of working with the Parade Company, Teed said she was not aware of any such proposal being submitted.

According to Teed, Occupy Detroit members hope that showing up at the procession will allow more people to learn about the movement.

"We just want to build awareness about what Occupy Detroit is, and though we've left Grand Circus Park, we certainly haven't stopped our movement or left the city."

Members of Occupy Detroit will also be attending the annual Turkey Trot events Thursday morning.

Teed said both events would be fairly low key, and that the group's basic plan is to "have people chill out there with Occupy Detroit shirts and badges."

"We recognize it's a holiday family event," she said. "We don't want to spoil that for anybody."


More Occupy activism can be expected on the day following Thanksgiving. The Detroit chapter of Occupy the Hood, a wing of the Occupy Movement focused on people of color, is calling for a boycott on Black Friday, the biggest retal sales day of the year that traditionally launches the Christmas shopping season.

"Black Friday is one of the busiest, biggest days for corporations," said Ife Johari Uhuru, a founder of Occupy the Hood who lives in Detroit.

Occupy the Hood's request to refrain from shopping joins a long tradition of post-Thanksgiving activism. Adbusters, the magazine that originally called for the Occupy Wall Street protests, has been organizing Black Friday boycotts and pranks for 20 years. They are celebrating this year's anniversary of the effort, which they call "Buy Nothing Day," with a new campaign called "Occupy Christmas."

Uhuru said Occupy the Hood wants to raise awareness about the Occupy movement and to encourage people to both work for social change and to rethink the ways they spend their money.

"We definitely do have economic power. We can't always just complain only about the 1 percent," Uhuru said. "When we protest corporations, they need to feel it -- not just hear it."

As part of the boycott, the group plans to visit a local mall. Although the event will mainly focus on educating people outside the shopping outlet with literature and signs, Uhuru said they may take things a step further.

"We may go into the mall and do a mic check," she said. That is, if the group can avoid being trampled by frenzied shoppers.

"When they're ready to go in and open the doors, they will run over you to get an iPod," Uhuru joked.

Occupy Detroit also plans to support the Black Friday boycott.

"We are coordinating with Occupy the Hood. We will be working together to carry out [actions on Friday]," Teed said. "We want a lot of people at multiple shopping venues to hear our message."

Teed echoed Uhuru's focus on education, saying that Occupiers hope to contrast predicted sales figures with statistics about Detroit's debt and wages of Walmart executives with those of employees.

She hopes the call to boycott will inspire people to stay at home, or to spend their money with local businesses.

"Hopefully with more energy and involvement around Occupy, we can build that into a bigger thing next year," Teed said.


Occupy the Hood Detroit will also be spearheading "Feeding Families," a program that will send food baskets to local families this month.

Uhuru said Occupy the Hood Detroit has received some donations for the project over the Internet. She is supplementing the effort with a personal contribution.

"So far, I have a little bit of money, and I'm going to put some of my money together to feed one family this year," she said. "I'm going to put the names on a card of all who donated to let them know this is a community effort, an Occupy the Hood effort."

Occupy the Hood Detroit plans to keep the effort up all year long, and Uhuru hopes to bring more families into the program as it grows.

Other Occupy the Hood branches around the country are organizing activities around the Thanksgiving holiday as well. Atlanta will sponsor a turkey roast, Boston is working with a food pantry and Cleveland has put together a soup village to feed families.

When asked about the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade, Uhuru said the Detroit Occupy the Hood chapter would not be participating. She said she does not celebrate the holiday herself and that members of the Detroit group will spend the day honoring indigenous people.

Kate Abbey-Lambertz contributed to this report.

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