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Walmart protest draws thousands to Chinatown

By Tony Pierce
Published: Monday, July 02, 2012, at 03:56PM
Tony Pierce / KPCC

A woman protesting the Walmart grocery store holds up a sign on Broadway after the march.

A well-organized, diverse crowd of thousands marched from the L.A. State Historic Park into Chinatown down Broadway Saturday to protest a Walmart grocery store planned on Caesar Chavez Avenue. Musicians Tom Morello and Ben Harper played at the rally, mostly attended by union employees and their families.

Congresswoman Judy Chu was one of the more powerful speakers of the day. She asked the several thousand protesters who had marched into the Chinatown Gateway to imagine the neighborhood once the Walmart grocery store opens.

"What would happen to landmark businesses just down the street here like Phoenix Bakery and Wonder Bakery if you could just go down to Walmart and get a cake for $1.99? What would happen to Columbus Pharmacy, that's just down the street too - and it's been there for decades — if you could go to Walmart and get Brand X aspirin for 50 cents cheaper? The sad truth is Walmart's model is to destroy small businesses, and we can't let that happen," Chu said.

Harper said anything is better than Walmart -- including driving miles away to the nearest Ralphs.

"L.A. is losing historic landmarks hand-over-fist. I think Chinatown is one of those: as a culture, as a community, architecturally," Harper said after his speech and performance. "We are already suffering the plight of minimalls, irresponsible, irrational homogenization of culture. It needs to stop. Especially in L.A."

The only person at the march who seemed to support the Neighborhood Store was someone who took the stage claiming to be a family member of the wealthy Walton family.

"Brick Walton" chided the crowd, thanking them for coming to the ribbon-cutting ceremony but before he could go on much further several Teamsters walked over to their Harley-Davidson motorcycles that were lined up next to the stage and revved their engines drowning him out.

Thursday, three L.A. mayoral candidates (councilmembers Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, along with City Controller Wendy Greuel) announced they would not accept campaign donations from Walmart because they don't support how it will impact L.A.'s economy.

Friday Morello explained why he is against the grocery store:


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