There is more to come, but here’s a teaser to wet your palate. Check back in for a longer video report from Saturday’s action.
There is more to come, but here’s a teaser to wet your palate. Check back in for a longer video report from Saturday’s action.
The March to Occupy GGP was a glorious demonstration of determination, hope, and solidarity. Low-wage workers, faith leaders, students, community organizers, and activists gathered at an elementary school in West Baltimore to prepare for the four-mile march to occupy the Inner Harbor mall. We were joined by many of our allies from Baltimore and beyond, Media Mobilizing Project, Poverty Initiative, Picture the Homeless, Community Farmworkers Alliance, Good Jobs Better Baltimore, Another BDC is Possible, Unite HERE!, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers traveling all the way from Florida.
We could not have asked for a better day, clear and bright, like the message we were sending to General Growth Properties: two years of ignoring the problem of rampant human rights abuses at your malls is unacceptable, it’s time to put your house in order and ensure workers’ human rights to work with dignity, healthcare, and education.
With that message in mind, we set off from the elementary school. Just blocks from the school, we approached Mondawmin Mall, one of six GGP malls in Maryland. Harbor workers and families led the march right into the mall singing “This Little Light of Mine, I Am Gonna Let it Shine!” We disrupted this temple of consumerism charging it with the energy of the beloved community. And just like a flash of light, we went in one door and out the other bound for the Inner Harbor.
Our march route connected us with a Baltimore much different from the Baltimore showcased to tourists in the heart of our city. But as the heart of our city, the Inner Harbor does not act like most hearts, pumping blood throughout the body down to the last fingers and toes, rejuvenating the entire body with necessary nutrients. No, this heart is a heart that only pumps one way, to the top.
As we marched down historic Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore’s African-American entertainment midway where Billie Holiday used to perform at the Royal Theater, we saw a city that had seen better days, but we were greeted with overwhelming expressions of solidarity from people on the street. One woman who used to work at the Inner Harbor making less than minimum wage, told us to ‘go get’em.’ One driver rolled down the window saying thank you repeatedly as she drove past the march. Marchers passing out fliers got into great conversations with bystanders who related with the message of freedom from poverty and Fair Development. In a city that has been devastated by poverty, we were not simply shining a light on the problem, but letting the light that exists within to shine through.
We kept marching, across Martin Luther King Boulevard, down Eutaw Street and past another historic and thriving Baltimore landmark, Lexington Market. In contrast to the branded space of the Inner Harbor, Lexington Market is the original festival marketplace, a commercial, social, entertainment, and transportation hub for the city. Once again, bystanders demonstrated overwhelming support for the march as we got closer and closer to our final destination, the Inner Harbor.
We arrived at last at the Inner Harbor. While tourists and consumers were surprised and entertained by our energetic spirit and music, Harborplace management were very prepared and not at all entertained. Instead of allowing the peaceful march to flow through their mall carrying the message of Fair Development, they decided instead to shut-down the mall. They locked and barred all the doors, trapping consumers inside the mall and locking consumers out, save one heavily guarded door. Ironically by shutting down their own mall, their actions were more disruptive to business than our actions. It is telling that they would rather shut-down the mall rather than engage workers and the community. Instead of coming to the table with workers, they send security to monitor and shadow our actions.
However, what their actions do reveal is that workers and allies are being heard. We wrapped up the March to Occupy GGP with words of solidarity and a recommitment to the fight for Fair Development. As Luis Larin, United Workers Leadership Organizer, stated, “the march might be over, but the fight goes on until human rights are respected.”
Hispan TV, international Spanish language media outlet, coverage of the March to Occupy GGP.
Check-out today’s article by Fern Shen reporting for the Baltimore Brew. To read the full article go here.
Before protesters arrived at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor yesterday to call attention to working conditions and “poverty wages” for the workers who cook, chop, clean, dish-wash and bus tables there, one of them waited to talk to a reporter.
“They treated us like machines – like we didn’t have any emotions or needs,” said Raquel Rojas, a former Cheesecake Factory line cook, standing with leaders of the group organizing the protest, Baltimore-based United Workers.org.
As Rojas spoke in Spanish, her words translated by a member of the group, Baltimore police could be seen in small clusters around the pavilions.
There were also plain-clothed security guards, apparently hired by mega-mall owner General Growth Properties (GGP). At points, they locked the pavilion doors, letting puzzled pedestrians through individually.
United Workers has been pressing GGP, Cordish Companies (manager of the Power Plant attractions) and other firms that own or operate property at the city’s tourist waterfront to make tenants pay a living wage and support education and health care for workers and their families.
We hope to see everyone at the March to Occupy GGP tomorrow! We’re gathering at 11 am at Gwynns Falls Elementary (2700 Gwynns Falls Parkway) and from there marching 4 miles to the Inner Harbor. It’s looking like Saturday is going to be a gorgeous day, so put on your walking shoes and come on out!
Joining us all the way from Florida is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and in an exciting encore to the March to Occupy GGP, the CIW will be protesting and delivering a manager letter at the Inner Harbor’s Chipotle as part of weekend of action. The CIW is calling on Chipotle to end the hypocrisy and and ensure real rights and fair wages for farmworkers in its supply chain.
March to Occupy GGP
Demand Fair Food from Chipotle!
After months of gearing up for the March to Occupy GGP, it is almost upon us. Before you now it, we’ll be marching 4 miles connecting the Baltimore where workers live, take their kids to school, and worship to the Poverty-Zone where they work. Once we arrive at the Inner Harbor, low-wage workers will lead the march through the downtown mall.
The March to Occupy GGP is going to be an exciting demonstration of the escalating pressure against General Growth Properties with hundreds from Baltimore and beyond participating. That said, with only several days left, there are still many ways you can be a part of making it happen.
Let us know if you can volunteer for any of these efforts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 410-230-1998.
Also, if you haven’t already told us you’re coming, shoot us an email or give us a call, we’d love to hear from you!
As we prepare for the March to Occupy GGP, we thought we’d take a stroll down memory lane to remind ourselves (and General Growth Properties) of the steps along the Human Rights Zone Campaign that have led us up to this point.
Two years of silence from GGP on systemic human rights abuses at their mall is unacceptable. Harbor workers and allies from across the country demand action now and hundreds will be joining us next Saturday for the March to Occupy GGP. Harbor workers are calling on all our allies to stand with workers in calling on GGP to meet workers demands and restore the promise of the Inner Harbor.
For more details on the March to Occupy GGP, go here
To let us know you’ll be joining us, email email@example.com or call 410-230-1998.
This weekends actions were larger than life, literally. From a blown up demand letter to large scale projected animations, this past weekend was one of the most interactive, art filled and BIGGEST expressions of Occupy the Malls to date. As we gear up for the March to Occupy GGP on May 19th, the United Workers Action Team, a group of low-wage workers, artists, and activists have been designing creative tactics for getting the message out about the human rights abuses at the Inner Harbor and General Growth Properties steadfast refusal to acknowledge workers demands.
On Friday as tourists and harbor goers enjoyed a lovely Spring evening, an unusual thing happened. A light was cast on the Inner Harbor, exposing the reality of poverty-zone development on Baltimore. Greenpants, a Baltimore based group of artist, activists, and educators, came up with a brilliant idea to project an animation on the exterior of the mall that told the story of workers fight for work with dignity and fair development at the Inner Harbor. This mesmerizing projection was a perfect example of public art being used to open up space for conversations about development, poverty, and human rights.
The very next day, the Action Team unveiled a blown-up version of harbor workers demand letter (the one we’ve been dropping off at GGP malls across the country). Who knows, maybe GGP hasn’t responded to our letter because they couldn’t read the small font. But instead of bringing this letter to GGP, once again, we decided to instead bring it to the people. One by one, harbor visitors gravitated to the giant yellow letter and once learning of the abuses at the harbor they added their signature to the call for workers demands to a right to work with dignity, healthcare and education.
After several hours of educating consumers and gathering signatures, we walked up several blocks to the plaza outside the offices of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) to join the Spring Development Forum. Organized by Another BDC is Possible, the Spring Development Forum was right up our alley. Leaders from across the city, working on a variety of social and economic justice issues, from worker’s rights to juvenile justice reform, came out to discuss how our current model of economic development benefits only a few and share how we can create a new model of economic development that truly benefits all.
This weekends actions proved once again that the message of Fair Development resonates with people from all walks of life. As we prepare for the March to Occupy GGP, we’re calling on all those who believe in the tenants of Fair Development, respect for human rights, public benefits over private gain, and sustainability, join us in this major action on May 19th.
International Worker’s Day is a day for lifting up the voices of workers struggling for dignity and justice at work and in their communities. It is a celebration of unity and solidarity across geography, sectors, race, gender, and all barriers that would divide us. Across the world, marches and actions take place to honor this day. In Baltimore, postal workers, service-sector workers, day laborers, community activists and labor organizers will rally at McKeldin Square at the Inner Harbor. While in Montpelier, our good friends, the Vermont Workers Center are staging their annual May Day march and rally to Put People First.
It is in this spirit of raising our voices that we share this video of United Workers leader, Raquel Rojas, telling her story. She connects the exploitation she experienced working at a marble factory in Mexico to the exploitation she experienced working at the Cheesecake Factory in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Raquel talks about why she decided to become an organizer, saying that, “the struggle for human rights is one that I believe we all must carry.”
Raquel has become one of many leaders in the fight for Fair Development at the Inner Harbor. On November 18, 2010, she led a delegation of workers and allies to General Growth’s Properties offices at Harborplace to once again call their attention to the rampant human rights violations taking place at their mall, see past web post. Despite these attempts by workers, GGP has continued to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of workers. That is why, as Raquel states, we must all carry the struggle for human rights and why we’re asking for everyone to join the March to Occupy GGP on Saturday, May 19th.
Go here for more information on the March to Occupy GGP. If you have not already told us you’re planning on coming, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 410-230-1998.