“We are not going back. We are going forward — and sooner or later, Publix is coming with us.”

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Publix Truth Tour ends its two-week journey on a high note in actions with hundreds of allies in Atlanta, Athens and Tallahassee! (Spoiler alert: Lots and lots of beautiful photos ahead…)

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Two weeks.  Fourteen cities.  Hundreds of allies at more than a dozen protests, and thousands of new troops on the northern front in the Publix campaign.  With the 2013-2014 tomato season just around the corner, the battle for Fair Food was joined again, this time with a powerful new injection of energy and activism thanks to the wildly successful Publix Truth Tour.

Publix_Truth_Tour_Atl__3430From its first days laying the foundations of the Fair Food Nation in cities across the state of North Carolina, to its last hitting the streets with over 200 allies in Atlanta, the Publix Truth Tour was a rousing preview of what lies ahead for the Florida supermarket chain if it intends to expand its geographic reach north while continuing to turn its back on the Fair Food Program and the human rights of the workers who harvest its tomatoes.  

Everyone in Immokalee — those fresh from the road and those who watched the exciting Tour from afar — is grateful to the spirited, generous people across North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida who embraced the Tour crew and echoed their message of economic justice at every turn.  Judging by the enthusiasm and warmth of the reception at stop after stop along the way, there can be little doubt that the Publix Truth Tour was just the beginning of what will be a growing partnership this coming season — a season, we all hope, that will be the final one in which Publix chooses to stand stubbornly in the path of progress, on the wrong side of history.

And so, here below is one final, inspiring update from the last week of the Publix Truth Tour. Enjoy the gorgeous photos, and be sure not to miss the short video at the end, capturing the magnitude and spirit of support for Fair Food in all fourteen cities along the Tour’s trajectory!

On Tuesday October 1st, the Publix Truth Tour entered Georgia, the fifth and final state of our two week trek. With spirits still high from the previous day’s picket in Mufreesboro and candlelight vigil in Nashville, we were welcomed to the University of Georgia in Athens (home of the Bulldogs!) by a strong crew of student organizers. From the historic chapel stage at the center of campus, CIW members gave a powerful presentation about the Fair Food Program’s ability to turn the agricultural industry, once defined by abuse and poverty wages, into an industry based on human dignity. As Lupe Gonzalo put it in closing, “We’ve fought tooth and nail to be where we’re standing today. Publix’s active refusal to join the Fair Food Program threatens to push us back into the past. But we’re not going back. We’re going forward. And sooner or later, they’re coming with us.”

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An hour later, we headed over to a busy Athens intersection to join the many dozens of students gathered there, homemade signs in hand. Among the groups represented that evening were Freedom University, University of Georgia’s Real Food Challenge,  the Undocumented Student Alliance, and Covenant Presbyterian Church. The University of Georgia student paper, Red & Black, was there, too, covering the CIW’s visit to campus.  Don’t miss their extensive coverage of the UGA tour stop, “Immigrants, students protest Publix” (10/2/13).

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To close out the beautiful evening protest, student leader Sarah Mirza (pictured below), her mother and grandmother at her side, recounted her words to the Publix manager during the delegation: “My family has shopped at Publix my whole life, but because of the corporation’s refusal to recognize farmworkers, it won’t be difficult for us to shop stopping here. What has to be difficult, I told them, is Publix going out of its way to purchase its tomatoes from the few Florida growers who haven’t joined the Fair Food Program.”

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That night, we headed into Atlanta.  As host to Publix’s regional corporate headquarters, Atlanta’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most important in the growing southern chorus calling for Fair Food — and over the next two days, Publix heard that voice loud and clear. We were welcomed to Atlanta with a special community dinner hosted by Project South, a longtime ally and steadfast presence in the fight for civil and economic rights in the region. Fueled by the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger’s unbeatable Southern cooking, we spent the evening building connection through discussion, theater and strategic planning.

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The highlight of our visit to Atlanta, without question, was the grand protest the following evening at the well-known Publix on Ponce (a store location well-known to the Campaign, too!). After many weeks of anticipation and preparation, 200 people came out to stand with the CIW, filling the sidewalk until it could hold no more. As the rush-hour traffic roared by, countless consumers picketed, chanted and cheered: workers, students, pastors, rabbis, seminarians, mothers, children. Even a partial list of the organizations represented could go on for miles: Congregation Bet Haverim, Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, Berea Mennonite Church, Columbia Seminary, Candler Seminary, Emory Sustainable Food Initiative, Emory School of Public Health, Radio WRFG, Radio 1310, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, Georgia WAND, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Project South, GA Student Justice Alliance, GA Undocumented Youth Alliance, People’s Agenda, Open Door Community, and more.  Here below are just a few of the faces from the incredible crowd (be sure to see a complete gallery from the protest at the end of today’s update):

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To close out the action, CIW’s Oscar Otzoy (below) reflected on the power of standing shoulder to shoulder with many other giants for justice. He also pointed out the Publix cameraman behind us, who had been following and filming us at every stop. Though the purpose of the tapes is indeed curious, given how past footage has been used, Oscar made it clear: “Cameras at our actions don’t intimidate us. In fact, we’re glad to know that Publix executives have been watching us today, that they witnessed the unity we demonstrated. They’ll have no illusions about whether or not the consumers in their regional headquarters here in Atlanta are with us.”

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Indeed, Atlanta is with us. Countless allies expressed a desire to build an Atlanta-based CIW Fair Food group, and to make it unmistakably clear to Publix that they will have no retreat from the Campaign for Fair Food until they agree to support the historic changes taking root in the fields of Florida. Here are a few more pictures from the rally following the action:

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Because there were simply too many great photos not to share them all, here’s the rest of the mobilization in Atlanta:

And so, on Friday, after visiting 14 cities in 14 days, the intrepid van load of CIW members and allies finally began to wind its way back home — but not before one final stop in Tallahassee. A lively contingent of Florida State University students welcomed the Tour crew, joined by a few other friends from community organizations and churches around the city, culminating the Publix Truth Tour with one last lively 35-person picket.

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As the dogged crew arrived back in Immokalee after a whirlwind tour on Saturday, we all agreed: Despite many long days on the road — and all too few moments of rest — we return to Immokalee with even more drive and energy than when we departed. We return buoyed by the overwhelming number of Publix consumers committed to amplifying our call for justice throughout the South, allies infused with the spirit of our struggle and equipped with their own strategies for taking the fight to Publix in their hometowns. Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama are ready. North Carolina is ready. It’s going to be an exciting season!

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And so ends the beginning of the 2013-2014 season of the Publix campaign.  It couldn’t have gotten off on a better foot.  To close this final update, an update overflowing with beautiful pictures and faces from the road, we will leave you with the Publix Truth Tour video, two minutes of action from the Tour that will set the table for the season to come.  Enjoy!

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