And they’re off! The Return to Human Rights Tour hits the ground running in Gainesville…

“Wendy’s, prepare yourself:  Today, we begin this tour for human rights, because we are all human beings and we all deserve respect…”

After many months of preparation and organizing, CIW members and a core group of allies set out from Immokalee yesterday before dawn on an unseasonably cool spring morning for the 14-city Return to Human Rights Tour!  Today, we bring you the first of the tour’s media reports, rounding up photo, video, and press highlights from the road so that — in the lead up to the Parade for Human Rights on March 26th in Columbus, where the Immokalee crew will join with students from OSU and Columbus community members following their weeklong fast calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program —  you, too, can come along for the ride!

The tour crew hit the ground running, beelining it for the first stop a mere five hours away, in Gainesville, Florida — home to the University of Florida (and, of course, birthplace of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a network of young people which today spans dozens of states and hundreds of universities across the nation!).  Around midday, the tour rolled up to the grassy expanse of Norman Field, greeted by an entourage of more than 70 University of Florida students and community members from Gainesville.

Before stepping off, the growing crowd received some powerful opening words from CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo:

We will win with Wendy’s.  There is no doubt of that… so Wendy’s, prepare yourself:  Today, we begin this tour for human rights, because we are all human beings and we all deserve respect.

She was joined in inspiring the crowd by UF student, Cecilia Luna (pictured below), who — after sharing her own experience as the daughter of farmworkers who worked long, hard days in the fields throughout her childhood — declared:

This will not stop until Wendy’ is completely kicked off of campus, or until they join the only proven solution to farmworker exploitation in the U.S agricultural system, which is the Fair Food Program!

As scores of students joined the rally, hailing from a range of student groups including CHISPAS UF, Gators Against Human Trafficking, Radical Student Alliance, Queer People of Color UF, as well as UF professors and alumni, the group headed into the sunny avenues of University of Florida’s campus, over 70 strong!

Photo Credit: Alan Alvarez // The Alligator

The infectiously upbeat and colorful march wound its way through campus, with chants of “Boot the Braids” echoing off classroom buildings, turning more than a few curious heads and garnering more than a few smiles:

The march ended with a spirited picket in front of the Reitz Student Union, home to the University of Florida’s on-campus Wendy’s.  In 2014, UF students were among the first in the country to launch a Boot the Braids Campaign with their university administration.  Students demanded that their university administration protect the institution’s reputation from being dragged through the mud by its association with a company such as Wendy’s, which has continued to demonstrate a callous disregard for the fundamental human rights of the workers in its supply chain.

Following a meeting by a delegation of marchers with the University’s Associate Director of Business Services, David Looney, the marchers’ chants of “Boycott Wendy’s!” culminated with a rousing cheer for CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo, who brought the action to a close:

Wendy’s continues to take advantage of workers, of their exploitation and the abuse of their human rights.  Here in these universities, the individuals who study here are feeling the momentum, and yet, the administration still refuses to do anything.  

This is the moment to make the Wendy’s Boycott even stronger — this is the time to turn up the pressure, because we are tired of listening to the same excuses.  We have taken off the blindfold they had put over our eyes — we see clearly, we see reality, and we won’t allow them to continue exploiting either workers or consumers.

Make sure to check out bonus photos from the Gainesville Sun and UF’s campus paper, the Alligator!

Stay tuned for news from the next stops along the Return to Human Rights Tour, as well as news from the front lines of Columbus, where momentum continues to grow in advance of the Parade for Human Rights on March 26th.  See you there!