Wayne Hsiung

Published on:

February 14, 2014

The Best Debate in a Long Time

Action report from Caroline Lemieux of the incredible UBC Activists for Animals, showing the power of direct action to reshape public discourse: 

On Sunday, January 26th, Vancouver activists – including members of UBC Activists for Animals and Vancouver Animal Defense League – took part in the DxE Day of Action against Chipotle: Broken Promises. Most of us entered the store as potential customers, sitting in empty spaces nonchalantly. Unlike in some other cities, we were not blocked from entering the store, perhaps because we entered without holding signs. Finally as the last activists entered, we delivered a monologue and slowly, activists in Chipotle emerged from the crowd holding signs. The music seemed to turn up to drown us out but our voices were powerful. 

Perhaps most intriguing was customer reaction; a few left, exasperated, saying “I can’t deal with this right now,” but most continued eating, their eyes turned on us.

We were not inside long; barely over a minute, but for all the stress, all the planning and the preparation, once we entered the store, speaking out for the animals was the only thing on our minds.

A Chipotle employee eventually approached us, asking to speak to the leader (assuming I, who was speaking out, was). At this point we delivered the open letter, and continued chanting as we left the store. The employee followed us out and spoke to us there.

Outside, passers-by were curious about our chants, and after hearing our reasons, were supportive of the action.

 Caroline delivered a rousing speakout inside a Vancouver Chipotle.
Caroline delivered a rousing speakout inside a Vancouver Chipotle.

In an interesting pre-cursor to the action, a facebook “friend” was so distressed by the thought that we’d enter a restaurant he enjoyed to “impose our beliefs”, joined the event with a fake account to question our motivations. This began an important conversation where we were able to have a discussion about animals which he later admitted was “the best debate he’d had in a long time.” This is exemplary of the power of direct action – the action did not even have to occur; the knowledge that the action would happen made him wonder “why you all feel so adamantly about it, that you would go to the extent of protesting inside of a place of community.” His response is exactly why we do it."