Will Occupy Black Friday Build on Buy Nothing Day?


While one third of the Occupy Wall Street movement is working on bail money, and another third on getting the mace out of its eyes, the other third is thinking about actions to further spread the message and expand the movement. One of the possibilities is an “Occupy Black Friday” campaign.

In various cities, those involved in the Occupy movement this week floated the idea of an “Occupy Black Friday” plan to keep the momentum going on the biggest shopping day of the year. While it’s not clear what these plans are, the approach has a precedent.

“Buy Nothing Day 2011” is still being promoted by AdBusters, the Canadian organization credited with (at least co-) launching the Occupy Wall Street movement. Will Occupy Black Friday be a day of confrontation or one of passive boycott? And if it’s the latter, will anyone care?

The very loosely organized OBF movement has thus far expressed a number of motivations for its actions. There are, of course, the standard gripes about corporations and profit and a nation of blind consumerism. But a subset of OBF is motivated by outrage at the demands placed on employees.[more]

As one poster wrote on Facebook [all sic]: “Target, Best Buy, and Macys all intend to open at midnight on Black Friday, depriving thousands of workers from a thanksgiving dinner with their families to improve corporate profits. Workers are fighting back and OWS stands in solidarity.”

The Washington Post recently spoke with a brave Target employee who launched a petition protesting the ever-earlier Black Friday hours.

This pro-worker rhetoric runs the gamut from solidarity consumer boycotts to calls for a (highly unlikely) general strike.

Occupy Black Friday could go one of two ways. First, it could go the way of the Nov. 17 “Day of Action” in which hundreds of Occupy protesters performed civil disobedience, shut down bridges and roads, and were arrested, sometimes violently, by police. There are a few that appear to promote this approach, though how organized or numerous they are remains a mystery.

StopBlackFriday.com proclaims, “ON NOV. 25th: OCCUPY LARGE CHAINS AND PUBLICLY TRADED RETAIL. Hit the 1% where it hurts – in the wallet.” As CNN.com notes, “the site lists Abercrombie & Fitch, Amazon.com, AT&T Wireless, Burlington Coat Factory, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dollar Tree, The Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Office Max, Toys “R” Us, Verizon Wireless and Wal-Mart as businesses that should be boycotted or occupied. “We are NOT anti-capitalist, just anti-crapitalist,” the site says.”

Alternatively, Occupy Black Friday could follow the Nov. 5th “Bank Transfer Day” activities which promoted switching from commercial banks to credit unions.

Ironically enough, Bank Transfer Day’s Facebook page has a bold announcement about its relationship to Occupy Wall Street: “While the Bank Transfer Day movement acknowledges the enthusiasm from Occupy Wall Street, the Bank Transfer Day movement was neither inspired by, derived from nor organized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Bank Transfer Day movement does not endorse any activities conducted by Occupy Wall Street.”

Going by announcements, it does not seem like OBF intends any kind of disruptive action to prevent or hinder those trying to participate in Black Friday sales. “Boycott” seems to be the most common approach to OBF. The movement has dovetailed nicely with tomorrow’s Small Business Saturday, or at least that event’s sponsor, American Express, would like to think so.

Many occupiers are calling for a move to shopping at small, local businesses, a goal Small Business Saturday claims to be about. “Simply fill out the form below to get started. Shop Small. It’s going to be huge,” states the American Express Small Business Saturday website. AmEx is offering $25 for those who register but a true cynic would suspect AmEx’s small biz approach is first about reinforcing its services with small businesses and a far second about true consumer reform action.

The Bank Transfer Day was more than a “day” with the organization claiming that, “in four weeks leading up to that date, 700,000 Americans shifted $4,580,000,000 in deposits alone from corporate-level for-profit banking institutions to not-for-profit credit unions.” An Occupy Black Friday action that was more about reducing consumer behavior than any one single day’s action could prove significant, though unlikely to make a huge dent either in retailer bottom lines or in press attention.

Buy Nothing Day may get a bump this year for its association with Occupy Wall Street but it’s unlikely to achieve a great deal more than Buy Nothing Day has managed over the years.

Indeed, on Nov. 7, Occupy Black Friday posted to its Facebook page: “Ok everyone Volunteer response has been sadly underwhelming! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!”

And when we contacted an Occupy Minnesota organizaer who had made a request for OBF volunteers, we received the following repsonse: “Thank you for your interest in helping out with the Minneapolis occupation’s plans for Black Friday.  Unfortunately, I’m no longer able to attend, as it turns out I have to work at that time.  OccupyMN’s events committee is, however, planning something from here.”

Top image via AdBusters.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *