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OPINION: Protesting Starbucks — A crime with your name on it  

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Campus, Opinions, Politics | 1 comment

You may have noticed something different if you passed by the campus Starbucks on Friday, Feb 9. Students came together to protest while holding signs that read, “Money is power! Keep your $” and “Put your money where your morals are.” These signs also called for students to join in on the boycott against the coffee company. A “Why Boycott?” sign included a QR code that many passersby stopped to scan. This code led to an article that explains the boycott. 

Since October, many have noticed that the size of the Starbucks’s queue has dramatically decreased from reaching the spiral staircase to barely containing more than half a dozen customers at a time. 

This protest, albeit silent and non-disturbing, was viewed with some controversy. Some read the signs and decided that, while it was an abnormal sight during their routine, they would get Starbucks despite the protestors. But, most comments that the protesting students received were actually in support of their cause. Some students even joined in. 

“We’re being very loud with, without even speaking.”

Anonymous protestor

The protest also garnered the attention of campus security. They questioned the protestors and were bothered by students filming their conversations despite the statement that recording was for their protection, even gathering a student’s ID information. While students cooperated, security lingered for the duration of the protest. 

Their presence didn’t dissuade the students as the right to protest and freedom of expression is included in MacEwan’s student code, which states: “All members of [MacEwan’s] community — its faculty, its staff, and its students, acting in an individual capacity or as members of a group — have the right to express themselves freely, as do all visitors on campus.” 

This begs the question as to why campus security needed to ensure that the protestors were students by asking for their ID even if the code includes visitors?

The protesting students reiterated that the purpose of the protest was to raise awareness about Starbucks’s support of Israel. They hoped to dissuade people from purchasing anything from the coffee shop. One protestor said, “Not contributing to our government will make such a huge impact regardless of what you choose to boycott, but specifically to boycott something as a collective, such as Starbucks, is just super important.” 

Hazem is one of the protestors and is actually from Gaza where he spent 70 days in the war. Hazem emphasized the importance of actions like boycotting as he shared that “[Israel is] killing more people. It’s not getting any better. It’s getting worse.” 

When asked why protest efforts were directed towards Starbucks that day, he answered, “Every time you buy a drink from Starbucks, you support them somehow. Every dollar you pay to them supports the war.” Hazem was likely referencing the fact that Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO is an outspoken Zionist and holds a considerable stake in the company. But most recently, Starbucks has gained its position on the boycott list by suing the Starbucks Workers Union for tweeting a post in solidarity with Palestine last October. 

Hazem also warned about the escalating violence in Gaza, reminding students that unless Palestinians have passports from other countries, they are unable to escape the indiscriminate bombing. He also mentioned that leaving was a difficult process despite his Canadian passport. But, the real underlying issue is why should Palestinians be forced to leave their own land? Israel’s actions are ensuring that most people no longer have a choice, with the only other option being death. As Palestinians seek shelter wherever they can, it is becoming glaringly apparent that there is nowhere safe in Gaza from Israel’s attacks. 

There was an emergency call-out to Edmonton’s community after the weekend following the protest to rally at Violet King Henry Plaza. While eyes were on the Super Bowl, Israel began what may be its most violent assault yet: the indiscriminate bombing of the last “safe zone” in Gaza — Rafah.

Rafah, the last point of the strip before the Egypt border, is potentially one of the most densely populated areas in the world due to Israel continuously forcing Palestinians down south. Yet as Palestinians evacuate, Israeli forces and bombs move south with them, allowing them no reprieve from the brutality. Footage emerging from Sunday night has been described as the most graphic thus far. 

Despite the short notice, the turnout was much higher than expected. Protestors took to downtown’s streets to demand a ceasefire and an end to the siege on Gaza. Chants like “Gaza, Gaza, you will rise. Edmonton is by your side,” and “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians,” echoed down 109 St. Protestors also chanted against the misinformation in mainstream Western media that has led to the villainization of Palestinians. They chanted, “Every time the media lies, a neighbourhood in Gaza dies.” Perhaps the most chilling chant was a call for an arms embargo to stop Canada’s complicity in the genocide: “Israel bombs, Canada pays, how many kids did you kill today?” With two rounds around the block, the rally continued well past sunset. In a touching moment of solidarity, protestors held their phones’ lights up for the martyrs of Palestine. 

Why should this matter to MacEwan students? As a student who participated in the protest, it is crucial for me to express that our pursuit of truth and knowledge cannot end in the classroom. Our individual responsibility is to remain informed and fight for justice worldwide. Canada and its Indigenous peoples still bear the scars of colonization. The same wounds are currently being inflicted on Gaza, the West Bank, and Palestine’s remaining occupied lands. It is easy to feel hopeless during such a sizable calamity, but we need to remember the power that we hold. Boycotting Starbucks is an easy action that actually benefits our already struggling wallets. But, if you really need your fix of coffee, there are so many amazing local options around campus. Not only would the prices be similar to your Starbucks fix, but you won’t have the after-taste of genocide with every sip of your macchiato.

Nour Ihsene Salhi

The Griff

1 Comment

  1. Bachir

    well done, support this powerful way to express your opinion, Boycott works


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