Pro-Palestinian protesters picket New Seasons to put up photos, boycott Israeli products, by Matt Buxton, the Oregonian
Friday, May 20, 2011 – About a dozen protesters spent about an hour and a half on Thursday, May 19, speaking out against the grocer’s removal of a photo exhibit.
About two dozen protesters gathered outside the Seven Corners New Seasons store on Southeast Division Street on Thursday, May 19 to speak out against the grocers’ decision to remove a photo exhibit depicting Palestinian life.
The protesters were outside the store from about 5 to 6:30 p.m., chanting slogans, holding some of the the removed images and handing out pamphlets.
Among the protesters was local photographer Stephen Kerpen, who had put up the removed exhibit. The photographs were removed from the dining area after a complaint was received about their political nature, with some of the photographs depicting conflict and others with captions like “Free Gaza.”
“They were photographs of people and the captions were quotes, and I don’t know how that’d be offensive,” he said, adding that a common space should be a place for discussion. “You can’t call it a community space and censor what’s there.”
In addition to calls to put the photos back up, the protesters also called for New Seasons to support a complete ban of products produced in Israel, a goal supported many pro-Palestinian groups called the Boycott-Divest-Sanctions movement against Israel.
When asked why the groups have focused boycott efforts on New Seasons opposed to other local grocery stores, Wael Elasady, a member of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, said that’s because New Seasons has marketed itself on a environmentally and community-conscious message.
“If you support the community here, you should support the community over there,” he said.
In an email, New Seasons’ Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Sedlar, said the photographs were removed because they implied that New Seasons was taking a side by exhibiting them and addressed the boycott.
“We’re firmly committed to the position we’ve taken all along: We are not participating in any boycotts, and are not meeting or siding with representatives from either side of this issue,” she wrote. “We encourage our customers to vote with their dollars. This is the most effective way for our customers to voice their opinions about the products that we offer.”