Anti-Target protesters gathered at the ocean end of Newport Avenue on the afternoon of August 31 before marching down the street and through the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors encouraged the protesters with hoots of support.
One of the main organizers of the protest, Kim McGinley, chanted, “Keep it local!” and “O.B. is not a strip mall!” through a megaphone, fellow protesters repeating after her. A little girl, no older than seven years old, took the megaphone for a brief anti-Target rant. The march ended after a block and a half, in front of the Ocean Beach Antique Mall where a Target Express has been proposed.
Arlene Ede, a local originally from “Back East — East L.A,” she said with a hearty laugh, relayed a relative’s disgust over her attendance at the protest. “She called me a liberal — I’m not! I’m just sticking up for my community. Hey, it’s my right to protest! If I don’t like something, I’m gonna make my voice heard. They’ve already kicked out enough mom-and-pop businesses in O.B.”
The Antique Mall is reputedly being sold for $6.5 million, but “nothing is final,” according to statement released by Target on August 30.
Perhaps it is the slow takeover of Ocean Beach by corporations that has led to the skepticism that I heard from many when I asked if they’d be attending the protest. One of my friends remarked, “If you really want to make a difference, why don’t you ask the landowners why they are charging so much in rent that only a corporation can afford to buy the place?”
“You can’t blame the owners alone for wanting to retire,” I replied. “It’s a systemic issue” (though I understand his perspective).
As the crowd slowly dissipated, I noticed a familiar face carrying a pile of signs — a previous customer of mine when I worked at a local coffee shop.
“Well, what can we really do?" I asked him. "I mean, look at Starbucks.” The corporation opened a store on Newport Avenue in 2001 after months of protests.
“Oh, this is just one of many protests," the man said. "I’ve been doing this for years. There are still people that are boycotting Starbucks. It’s one of the smallest Starbucks out there, the sign is nearly blacked out…. You heard about Winchell’s in the ’70’s right?” he recounted with a gleam in his eyes. “They fire-bombed [a couple Winchell's stores in protest], twice!”