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If a recent demonstration is any indication, the calls for less incendiary dialogue, less use of provocative symbols, and less uncivil behavior in the wake of the Arizona tragedy were apparently reserved for those on the conservative side of the political equation. In Washington, D.C., a group calling itself “Wal-Mart Free DC” targeted the developer of a proposed Wal-Mart in that city for a protest. The location of that protest? The front lawn of the man’s private residence, where 25 people showed up last Thursday night. How did they know where to go? The group distributed a flyer with the developer’s home address–one which also contained drawings of cross-hairs and a smiley face.
The group claimed it is not affiliated with any particular union, but on the right side of its website home page (http://walmartfreedc.org) it displays a link to “Wal-Mart Watch” which is funded by two union groups, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and United Commercial and Food Workers International Union. They also display a link to “Good Jobs First,” a website which prominently displays a banner on which the words “Privatization Equals Corruption” are written, with a link to www.council4.org. Council 4 is part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), representing the state of Connecticut’s largest AFL-CIO union.
Yet even if one accepts the protesters’ claim of non-affiliation with any organized labor group in particular, it is inarguable that the tactic of targeting someone’s private residence for an intimidating protest is remarkably similar to what members of the SEIU did last May. In collaboration with a Chicago group called National Political Action, the labor union sent 14 busloads of protesters to the home of Greg Baer, deputy general counsel for the Bank of America. Unfortunately, the only one home at the time was Mr. Baer’s 14-year-old son, who was frightened enough to lock himself in a bathroom.
The target of last Thursday’s demonstration was developer Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt Development. One might be inclined to say Knapp knew what to expect, since this was the second demonstration held outside his home in just over a month. On Thursday, December 16th, Knapp and his family were subjected to a protest in which 20 activists marched in circles chanting, “Keep D.C. Wal-Mart free.” Ironically, Knapp has yet to sign a deal with Wal-Mart at this writing.
Unions targeting peoples’ private residences is nothing new. Back in the 1990s, such protests were often undertaken by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which staged demonstrations in front of the homes of bankers. The demonstrations were designed to intimidate bankers into making more mortgages available to minority applicants, despite those applicants’ questionable credit credentials. The tactic proved to be enormously successful, and during the ensuing years, billions of dollars of sub-prime mortgages were underwritten–providing the much of the impetus for the housing bubble which finally burst in 2008. ACORN itself went bankrupt in November of last year, after contributions to the organization dried up as the result of a damning video showing ACORN workers advising an undercover duo posing as a pimp and a hooker how to apply for an illegal housing loan.
ACORN had long-standing ties with the SEIU, which were detailed in a report released in February 2010 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Entitled “Follow the money: ACORN, SEIU and Their Political Allies, it detailed “illegal agreements that constitute a criminal conspiracy,” between ACORN and the SEIU, “thousands of fraudulent U.S. voter registrations” submitted by ACORN to various state voting registries, and ACORN”S role in the aforementioned housing collapse.
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