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Protesters picket Santa Fe Starbucks for company’s dispute with union over Gaza post

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Protesters picket Santa Fe Starbucks for company’s dispute with union over Gaza post

Feb 27, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Austin Fisher
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Protesters picket Santa Fe Starbucks for company’s dispute with union over Gaza post
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John Isaac Gutierrez, left, carries a Palestinian flag during a picket of a Starbucks location in Santa Fe on Feb. 26, 2024. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

A group of 10 demonstrators picketed a Starbucks in New Mexico’s capital city Monday to protest the coffee chain’s dispute with its workers over their public support for Palestinians.

During morning rush hour traffic near U.S. Route 285 in Santa Fe, the group formed a picket line to block motorists from entering the store’s parking lot and drive-thru. They had marched through the drive-thru before getting shooed away by a manager.

Wearing keffiyehs, they carried signs that read, “Stand with the union workers; they stood up for Palestine,” and, “A better world is possible; Boycott, Divest, Sanctions.”

“Support local coffee shops, boycott for Palestine,” they chanted as four vehicles lined up to reach the store.

Monday’s protest was part of a yearslong nonviolent struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and self-determination which formally began on July 9, 2005 when the majority of Palestinian civil society groups issued the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

What international law?

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, ruled on Jan. 26 South Africa has made a “plausible” case that at least some of Israel’s actions in Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023 constitute genocide.

The court ordered Israel to stop killing Palestinians, stop causing them serious bodily or mental harm, stop deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction, and stop imposing measures intended to prevent Palestinian births.

Monday was the deadline for Israel to submit a report to the court on what it has done to comply with the order. Human Rights Watch says Israel is not complying with at least one part of it.

Starbucks is not listed among the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s boycott targets. However, there has been a grassroots organic boycott campaign in and outside the U.S. after the company sued its workers in a federal court over an Oct. 9, 2023 social media post expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

Some motorists responded to Monday’s protest by carefully driving around the picket line, or parking nearby and walking to the store. Others revved their engines, or rolled down their windows to scream at the protesters.

One motorist yelled at the protesters from his truck while waiting for the traffic signal to change  across the highway, and made a profane hand gesture. The group responded by blowing him kisses, telling him they love him, and wishing him a great day. Others honked in support as they drove by, their fists raised.

At one point, an older white man who was not affiliated with Starbucks approached the group and tried to physically push the protesters to allow the motorists through. He soon gave up, backed away and watched.

Another man in a large white truck later hit a protester with his vehicle, went through the store’s drive-thru, stopped, got out of his truck, got back in, and said he had “reported” the protesters as he drove off.

The victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were walking the picket line when the driver saw them, chose to drive forward regardless, hit them and deliberately pushed them several steps back, not allowing them to effectively step out of the way. They said they were not injured but shaken.

Natasha Durel is an activist with Palestinian roots. She said she came to the protest to disrupt business as usual, stand with the BDS movement, and support Starbucks workers who have spoken out in support of Palestinians.

She said the company’s lawsuit shows it’s not willing to allow their workers to speak freely but is willing to intimidate them for their expression.

“Their silence is violence at this point,” Durel said.

Destiny Ray, an activist with the climate nonprofit Earth Care, also attended the protest and said motorists’ reactions were abrasive and “dramatic for an $8 cup of coffee that really isn’t supporting our local businesses or their local economy.”

“It’s not that deep, coffee is not that big of a deal,” Ray said. “There’s like eight coffee shops within three blocks from here.”

Durel said some of the public’s reaction to the demonstration amounted to tantrums over being inconvenienced and having to face their own lack of awareness around the issue.

“I think that reflects on a bigger problem we have as a society: when people are confronted with these things, they tend to look the other way, do what they know, and become angry — not at the things creating violence, but at the people trying to stop it,” she said.

Durel said she thinks capitalism encourages people to be self-interested and self-motivated.

“That inconvenience, that disruption in what they know is a deeper truth, what they know deep down is wrong, that creates the anger, because at the end of the day, it’s not us they’re angry at, it’s themselves,” Durel said.

Other members of the public stopped to talk with the protesters to ask them why they were picketing. Ray said some left saying they respect the picket.

Whether people ended up getting their coffee or not, Durel said, “they’re stirring, they’re angry, they’re thinking, and that’s what we want ultimately, is to make people think and challenge the status quo.”

“Even just creating a small shift in how you show up, it adds up,” she said. “It allows then, from one change you make, to change your entire lifestyle, which at this point is the least we can do: give up the comforts when we learn how deeply our pockets and our money are creating absolute destruction and chaos for families.”

“I don’t want that done with my dollars, I’m not sure why anyone would,” Durel said.