About 50 people turned out Saturday, Aug. 14 for a protest of the new Target store in Chicago, on Broadway just north of Montrose. They were calling for a boycott of the store because of a recent $150,000 contribution to a fund, Minnesota Forward, that in turn gave that money to right-wing conservative Republican candidate Rep. Tom Emmer in his race for Minnesota governor.
While Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel has apologized to employees for the contribution, and while Target is also meeting with the Human Rights Campaign to mitigate damages, they have not requested the funds back, and Chicago activists are demanding that before they stop boycotting the store.
If Target does get the money back, or even if it does not, activists are calling on the store to give equal or more money to Emmer's Democratic opponent as well as gay organizations and candidates in Minnesota, where the superstore is based.
"We will not be targets" chanted one of the protest's organizers, Rick Heintz, as the group marched in front of the store. Heintz also cut a cake commemorating the victory in the Prop 8 gay marriage case in California. As the Target protest went on in the mid-day sun, dozens of drivers honked their horns in support.
The Chicago protest was initiated by 16-year-old New Trier High School student Zachary Fraum. He came out the week before during the Gay Liberation Network's protest in Arlington Heights against the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
"I have known I was gay since I was 10 years old," Fraum said, adding that Rep. Emmert is not just anti-gay, but right-wing on other social issues such as abortion and immigration.
Organizer Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network made it clear they were not against the employees of Target, who he said are also victims of an anti-gay CEO who also opposes a unionized workforce. Their CEO "says through his contributions that he hates them, and that has to be a horrible burden" for employees, Thayer said. "To the workers, we say we are on your side."
Transgender activist Dove Paige Anthony asked Target to "stop funding our oppression now!" Anti-war activist Heather Benno from the Answer Coalition connected the dots between those who oppose gay rights and the bigots who get elected and work against gay issues. She said gay rights are the "civil-rights struggle of our generation."
Carrie Maxwell, a former Target employee, said this boycott was a slippery slope, now that the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations can give campaign contributions. "What if Illinois companies like Walgreens and Kraft do this? What are we going to do?" she asked. "So maybe Target, if they can't get the money back, can donate double to gay groups and to the Democratic candidate."
Thayer and GLN's Bob Schwartz said the protesters' demands include Target getting the money back, Target giving that money to a Minnesota gay group, and the Target CEO issuing a "real apology."
Several people at the protest also mentioned that Best Buy is also guilty of similar campaign contributions, and should also be boycotted.