On the afternoon of June 23, protestors clashed on Newport Avenue, attracting several news crews and police. The demonstration, originally intended as a peaceful picketing/petitioning event organized by Frank Gormlie of the OB Rag community blog, descended into chaos, much to the bemusement of beachgoers and attendees of the weekly farmers’ market.
The picket signs from Gormlie’s group targeted the Black, one of San Diego’s longest-standing head shops. Protestors encouraged a general boycott due to the store’s selling of stickers that read, “Welcome to Ocean Beach, Please Don’t Feed Our Bums.” The statement is seen by some as an insensitive attack on the neighborhood’s homeless population. Others consider the stickers a tongue-in-cheek joke. Some people feel it expresses a valid sentiment of outrage over the behavior of some members of the homeless population who have been accused of aggressive and violent panhandling techniques.
Petitions were circulated in an effort to get the stickers removed from shelves. (Hats and T-shirts with the same message have reportedly sold out.) In a conversation captured last week by a local news camera, a representative of the store said it would consider removal of the items if presented with “hundreds” of signatures on such a petition.
Counter-protestors held signs supporting the Black as a local business and admonishing Gormlie for having an opinion about Ocean Beach. (Though he was a longtime resident of O.B., Gormlie reportedly resides in Lemon Grove.) The counter-protestors also called for the dismantling of Gormlie’s OB Rag website.
Other signs, such as, “Go Home Trolls” and “Bums Off My Beach,” were carried by children and teens attending the event with parents. Other people quickly fashioned nonsensical signs in order to join the spectacle — one person waved a sign demanding that drivers “Use Your Turn Signals!”
A man who waved a sign proclaiming “Everybody Sucks But Me,” said, “I just want to be on the news,” then displayed another sticker with a joke about sexual intercourse and declared it much more offensive and therefore more worthy of a protest.