Western students gathered for the annual info fair in Red Square on Tuesday, Sept. 20, but did not expect to see picket signs protesting Whole Foods to be apart of the event.
Viking Union security approached the protesters and told them they could not be in the square while the info fair occurred. The protesters disagreed, and stated they had the right to be there.
According to the Western’s Student Rights and Responsibility Code, students have the right to protest unless it obstructs traffic, incites violence, creates disruptions to class, creates noises during academic activities such as meetings, teaching and administration.
“I saw the [Whole Foods] booth and thought this would be a great time to educate students. Whole Foods takes money away from the co-op.”
As the protesters chanted “Whole Foods, not so wholesome,” their signs saying “Whole Foods Kills Co-Ops” and “Whole Foods+Gentrification” faced students as they walked by the Whole Foods booth.
The students involved in the protest come from groups like Students for Farmworker Justice and Students for Sustainable Foods, senior and public relations major Trisha Patterson said. The group Eating With Heart was also present.
“I saw the [Whole Foods] booth and thought this would be a great time to educate students,” Patterson said. “Whole Foods takes money away from the co-op.”
Leah Olver, an environmental studies major, held a strawberry-shaped sign with the words “fair food tastes better.” It is important to support local businesses, she said.
Whole Foods employee and 2013 Western alumna Olivia Yates said she was not surprised by the protestors.
“This is normal for me to see because Western’s campus is vocal,” Yates said. “Whole Foods has over 460 locations, and it has never put out a local co-op.” There were zero protestors at her booth the first day of the info fair, she said.
“If Western has rules that silences students from protesting, that is a problem,” student Emma Bigongiari said regarding security arriving. “We feel really frustrated.”