On the one-year anniversary Monday of the first Occupy protest in New York City, about 100 protesters in Davis filled the sidewalk in front of the Monsanto plant on Fifth Street to join a national effort to shut down the agricultural biotechnology corporation, at least for one day.
Nearly 100 similar protests occurred around the world, according to an Occupy news release announcing Monday’s demonstration.
Occupiers from Davis to Sacramento to Oakland began packing the parkway at 1920 Fifth St. about 6 a.m., dressed in hazardous materials suits and carrying banners and signs to illustrate their distaste for the many anti-environmental actions that groups across the country have accused Monsanto of taking.
Among those allegations include genetic contamination, the marginalization of small farmers and mass pollution of the environment.
Once the group arrived in Davis, they strung red and yellow tape across the driveway entrances to bar plant employees from going in or out, though there already were a handful of cars parked in the parking lot.
“I would love to see Monsanto crumble,” said Kim Sloan, a Sacramento resident and Occupy Sacramento member who joined Monday’s protest. “They’re a very corrupt and horrible company that has been subsidized by the United States government and it needs to stop.”
A lone Monsanto security guard, there to keep protesters from entering the building, would not disclose whether the company was in operation Monday.
However, Monsanto world headquarters did respond to a request for a comment with a statement emailed to The Enterprise.
“The 21,000 people who work for Monsanto are proud of our efforts to help improve farm productivity and food quality,” wrote Tom Helscher, director of corporate affairs, in the email. “Agriculture and its uses are important to California, the United States and the world.
“Among the challenges facing agriculture are producing food for our growing population and reducing agriculture’s footprint on the environment. We respect each individual’s right to express their point of view on these topics.”
The Enterprise was not able to reach representatives of the Monsanto plant in Davis.
Meanwhile, with bull horns and sidewalk chalk, the protest raged on until the late afternoon.
And the group’s message was not only to shut down Monsanto, but also to promote the passage of Proposition 37, which would force food producers in California to label any products that contain “genetically modified organisms” or GMOs.
The cause even drew a high-profile speaker in Roseanne Barr’s vice presidential candidate, Cindy Sheehan, representing the Peace and Freedom Party, who said “evil” companies like Monsanto must be stopped.
“Any time you put profits over our children, any time you put profit over the environment, any time you put profit over health and safety, that is evil, and that is what these corporations do,” Sheehan through a megaphone, with the plant behind her.
“The first step to shutting Monsanto down is passing Proposition 37,” she went on. “Consumers (then) can make a choice to boycott any food products that have GMOs in it. If we stop buying food products that have GMOs then, guess what? They will stop putting GMOs in their food products.”
At about 2 p.m. a group of 20 protesters broke off to march to Mrak Hall at UC Davis. On their way back, they paraded past the U.S. Department of Agriculture building at 430 G St.
By 4 p.m. only 20 protesters remained in front of the Monsanto plant.
Steven Playan, an Occupy Woodland member and one of the main organizers of the protest, said people would stay as long as they wanted, but there were no plans to come back Tuesday.
Other activist groups in attendance included the Sacramento American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Luis Magna Organization de Trabajadores Agricolas de California and the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement.
Source: Davis Enterprise