After spending the night with the awesome Occupy Monsanto organizers, we got ready for our day of action. I have to say that the couple we stayed with blew away any expectations that I have about the demographics of folks who plan direct action. Based on their cool names, the fact that they live in a community type house where the host conferences and meetings and plan direct actions, I was planning on a young, funky anarchist couple. Boy was I surprised when we drove up to their beautiful old house and and 60 something couple came out with the plans for 5 grocery store actions in one day. Blew my mind! That will show me to assume that young funky people are the only organizers getting anything done! Ha!
Anyway, they are awesome, active community organizers. We were lucky to have them for 2 days and St. Louis is lucky to have them all the time.
We started the day with a trip over to Monsanto World Headquarters. The occupy monsanto organizers had told us that we might be met at the gate by an officer taking our picture, so we decided to prepare! We found some good ol’ mustache/glasses/eyebrows disguises and proceeded on in “incognito”. The Headquarters basically looks like a college campus/ hospital. We pulled in with no trouble, but within 5 min, we had 5 security guards hanging out with us, 3 behind, 2 passing us in the opposite direction every now and then. We video taped the whole thing, and honestly by the time they stopped us and asked up to leave, we were pretty ready, It was intense.
Afterward we wanted to do some sight-seeing so we took fishy car to the St. Louis Arch! Ot was grand fun and we rolled around in the grass before heading back to prep for the actions.
The basic plan for our actions was this: Of our 6 person crew, 2 people would be in hazmat suits, goggles and masks to “inspect” food, I would be the “record keeper” / lesion dressed nicely, Ben would drive and guard fishy corn from towing and the rest would distribute info to customers outside and around the store.
At Schnucks, they were waiting for us at the door, we didn’t have time to park or walk in before the manager and landlord asked us to leave the property. We were nice, they were nice, so we carried on.
At Whole Foods, we were quickly asked not to film or solicit customers. We could answer questions and give flyers if people asked us though, and people did! We were allowed to stay there and hunt for GMOs for quite awhile, and although we did find some (especially from the invisible ingredient list), we were surprised by the amount of non-GMO food they do carry. One of our Hazmat guys made a great scene, saying “Oh, now everyone stand back! This looks suspicious!” And then sneaking up to the potential GMO product with gloves and a mask on to examine its ingredients. It was too funny and people would gather to watch and ask questions. Outside a ferocious looking cop circled fishy corn in the parking lot. We grew tired and moved on.
At Trader Joes, we were also stopped at the door and informed that NONE of their products contained GMOs and were asked to leave. When the manager was pressed about the presence of GMOs in his store he got angry and refused to continue talking. Upon further conversation with another manager we found out that Trader Joes Brand products are not 100% organic, but supposedly are 100% non-GMO. The other brands in the store could contain GMOs if they aren’t organic. There’s really no way to know without labeling. We were still asked to leave.
At Dierbergs we were fussed at by a confused employee who we said that we couldn’t possibly be shopping in Hazmat suits. We told him that we were shopping around, but hadn’t found anything we were willing to buy. That shut him up. Unfortunately, he was followed by a manager who told us that we couldn’t film or solicit, but we could shop. But after a heated conversation with a Monsanto employee in the parking lot, the fishy corn got kicked out and the rest of us followed.
Our last stop was Walmart. The produce manager asked me what a GMO was. Oh no, bad sign. He then led me to the new variety of packaged sweet corn (the new BT variety? we wonder). We were asked to leave shortly thereafter, by two managers who were “too busy helping customers” to look up Walmart’s store policy on GMOs.
It was fun! We talked to a good number of people and certainly turned some heads. After it was all over we said our goodbyes. We even met an organizer of a local farmers market who would like the next GMO Freak on his car (a tomato fish?). We spent another little while at the City Museum, said bye-bye to St. Louie and headed on to Kentucky. Tomorrow, we take a day off with Ben’s family before visiting Evansville and Louisville on Sunday.