“Tear down the wall!”…

[hupso title=”Tear down the wall! @DisciplesGA leaders march on @Wendy’s in Columbus, OH!” url=”http://ciw-online.org/blog/2015/07/tear-down-the-wall/”]

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Over 100 Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) leaders march on Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, call on Wendy’s to tear down the wall keeping the fast-food leader from joining the top human rights program in the US food industry today!

As announced last week, when leaders of the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) learned that last weekend’s annual General Assembly was to take place in Wendy’s hometown of Columbus, OH, they wasted no time planning a demonstration at a local Wendy’s restaurant.

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Marchers gather under stormy skies before heading out through the streets of Columbus toward a newly constructed Wendy’s restaurant downtown.

Compelled by their deeply-held values of justice and long history of standing with farmworkers since the days of the Taco Bell boycott, the Disciples were also moved by a key piece of Disciples history: Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, was himself a member of the Disciples of Christ.

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We have a firsthand report from the action to share with you today, so without further ado, here’s the very latest from the front lines of the fight for Fair Food:

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When the long-awaited day of the protest arrived this past Sunday, a forecast of flash floods and lightning threatened to force a change of plans. But just moments before the action was scheduled to begin, the sun broke through and Disciples poured out, over one hundred strong, into the streets of Columbus toward a newly-opened downtown Wendy’s.

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The action was sponsored by a wide-variety of groups: Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Disciples Justice Action Network, North American Pacific Asian Disciples, Disciples Peace Fellowship, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Columbia, Ohio Fair Food, the Central Ohio Worker Center and Ohio State University Student/Farmworker Alliance (there to remind Wendy’s that the ongoing national student boycott of Wendy’s is only building momentum at its origin campus of OSU!).

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In what was for a majority of marchers their first time participating in an action of this kind, the Disciples peacefully marched, chanted, and carried signs urging Wendy’s to end their silence in the face of the Coalition’s two-and-a-half year call to join the Fair Food Program: ‘Walk humbly, Love mercy, Do justice!” “God is fair. Are you, Wendy’s?”

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Dave Thomas’s memory was invoked repeatedly by his Disciples brethren. In the words of Floridian Rev. Jack Barnes, “I am convinced that if he were still alive today, we would not have to be here. Let’s keep the pressure on to remind them of their heritage, as well as to continue our own heritage of justice.”

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When a delegation of marchers was prevented from delivering a letter to the restaurant manager (below), things grew momentarily tense…

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But the frustration was soon turned masterfully into a moment for reflection on faith in action, as Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea (above and below in red) recalled a story from the Disciples tradition that captured the spirit of the moment. In Joshua 6, she recounted, it’s told that the Hebrew people were able to tear down a city wall by doing nothing more than following their faith and marching persistently around the massive wall for seven days.  Rev. Stanley-Rea drew the parallel to the barrier Wendy’s has erected in order to ignore the rights of farmworkers: “And I pray with you that together through all of the parts of the Disciples of Christ that are represented here, we will continue working here to tear down the wall!”  She led the refrain over and over, all one hundred chanting with her: “Tear down the wall down! Tear down the wall!”

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All in all, it was an incredibly powerful evening, charged with electric energy and a resolve made only stronger by the unseemly turn of events.  The CIW’s Julia de la Cruz (below) closed out the action with these words: “We are not unaccustomed to Wendy’s closing the door on us and refusing to let us enter.  But our struggle is never to become discouraged, but to increase our energy and commitment as we fight for justice, justice for all farmworkers. We will keep fighting.  The Disciples of Christ have supported us for so many years, and the struggle continues.  Before long, Wendy’s will have to join the Fair Food Program.”

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A great report from what sounds like a remarkable action!  

Check back soon for more from the Campaign for Fair Food, including some very big news from the supermarket world…!