On Black Friday, if you wandered out to a mall or big box store you likely encountered a crowd of people blocking the doors. For Americans in a few cities, throngs of people were there to protest rather than to look for a deal.
Small Black Friday protests sprang up in a few cities across the country, the two most notable being in Chicago and Seattle.
While the protests claimed to draw attention to issues afflicting the black community such as our justice system and economic empowerment, the meager attendance exposes an uncomfortable truth that capitalism isn’t evil and life in America may not be so bad after all.
The numbers clearly tell us something about the lack of enthusiasm behind these movements. For example, in Seattle:
Nearly 10,000 people were interested in attending the Black Lives Matter protest on Friday, according to the event's Facebook page. But only a few hundred showed up to march and rally for the six-hour demonstration, which remained mostly peaceful.
Tensions rose between shoppers and protesters when the demonstrators purposely blocked the entrance to Nordstrom Rack in Westlake Center as they chanted “Black Lives Matter on Black Friday.”
Friday’s demonstration was the least disruptive in years.
In Chicago, where protestors were also pushing for policing reforms and trying to unseat Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Tribune contrasted the “small” protest with the “North Michigan Avenue sidewalks packed with post-Thanksgiving shoppers” as a “clash of activism and commerce”:
Marking the second anniversary of the release of a video showing the fatal shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald by a white police officer, about 100 people called for shoppers to boycott Magnificent Mile stores because Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen won’t take up the cause of civilian oversight of the Police Department.
Friday’s event was smaller than last year’s Black Friday march. And it was dwarfed by the protest in 2015, when as many as 1,000 people stopped traffic and blocked the doors at many high-end retailers along Michigan while clashing with police and shoppers. That first march took place just days after a video was made public showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.
In addition, in St. Louis a group of about 100 protestors gathered in a local mall about a lack of economic empowerment, but their Black Friday protest turned violent resulting in seven arrests including a local lawmaker. The situation was apparently so chaotic that store owners locked down their stores – trapping shoppers inside.
Perhaps the goal was to draw attention to their causes, but if the level of engagement is as an indicator of how many people support the solutions the protestors are putting forward then they should reassess their tactics.
We can’t ignore that there are injustices in our nation. Too many families are struggling to make ends meet despite gains in employment and the stock market. Too many moms are left wondering how they will afford an unexpected medical bill or Christmas presents. Too many formerly incarcerated men and women struggle to be reintegrated to society after serving their time.
The protests that started a few years back by unions and activist groups have dwindled because they didn’t have a positive message and bipartisan agenda to address issues like opportunity and reintegration.
Corporate retailers are an easy target, but the wrong target. The economic activity generated on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season comprises 20-30 percent of a retail stores entire budget. Those retailers not only employ 15.8 American workers, but they also hire an additional 640,000 to almost 700,000 seasonal jobs during this time of year. These are some of very people that are purported to be helped by the protests.
Americans recognize this and choose to shop or stay at home rather than shaking their fists at our economy and our nation.