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A new wave of activism

POSTED July 16, 2010 10:09 p.m.

Prior to 2007, protests in Turlock were a rare occurrence.

I remember the first protest I covered for the Turlock Journal over three years ago. Local activist Linda Taylor, along with three others, held up signs protesting the “unsafe” environment they felt students at Turlock High School were subjected to. They were particularly upset over alleged bullying incidents, which they felt the school administration did not appropriately respond to.

The entire event lasted 45 minutes and involved the four protestors walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the THS administration building during lunch time. They told anyone who asked why they were there, but otherwise the school day was unaffected by the noon time protest.

They didn’t even chant.

Over the years, Turlockers have also protested the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, funding for the homeless and the Carnegie Arts Center and, more recently, the renovation efforts at Joe Debely Stadium. But these “protests” were more closely related to lively debate than a traditional protest rally.

This mild form of protest is a weak cousin to the almost weekly rallies of college students in Berkeley and Los Angeles, and a day at the park compared to the semi-revolutions that have erupted on the streets of America for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War.

I don’t think Turlockers lacked passion in the past, they just chose to voice their opinions through the written word and personal appeals to law makers.

Recently, however, a wave of activism has washed over our fair city.

In 2008, the Proposition 8 supporters and protestors were a familiar sight on Monte Vista Avenue. During the school year there are protests against cutting education funding almost every month. Our local teachers have twice taken to the streets in their signature pink apparel to publicly advocate against layoffs in the Turlock Unified School District.

The ever dwindling state budget has also spurred local university students — who in the past couldn’t even be bothered to vote for their own student leaders — to stage sit-ins, mock funerals and rockin’ rallies in protest of increasing fees and decreasing course offerings.

Turlock has even seen its own international protests spring up in light of a questionable presidential election in Iran and increased church bombings in Iraq.

Sarah Palin speaking at California State University, Stanislaus last month brought the protesting to a whole new level — and may have given local advocates a taste for national media coverage.

As a journalist, I whole-heartedly endorse the exercising of free speech. The best thing about this country is our freedom of expression. We do not have to suffer in silence if we believe injustice is occurring. We are encouraged as United States citizens to actively seek change for the better while respecting the rights of others to do the same.

A group of Turlock residents are using their freedom of speech to petition a corporate grocery chain to come to town. The group, aptly named Bring Trader Joe’s to Turlock, is staging their second rally at the Modesto store on Monday in an attempt to lure the gourmet grocer to Turlock. Their first Hawaiian-themed event in front of the store was held in May.

The group of business advocates are now encouraging Turlockers to download a flier that reads “I love Trader Joe’s” from their website, www.bringtraderjoestoturlock.com, and present it to the Modesto store’s cashiers from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, along with their purchases. According to Nellie Lazar, one of the event’s organizers, this will show Trader Joe’s executives that Turlockers are a “purchasing powerhouse.”

While I’m glad that Turlockers are actively exercising their First Amendment rights, I have to wonder if Trader Joe’s warrants such action. Wouldn’t the old way of letter writing and personal appeals be a better way to convince the corporate grocer that Turlock is serious about bringing in new businesses?

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

 

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