A Tampa Twofer! Return to Human Rights Tour wraps up with a huge march, rally at Tampa Wendy’s, Publix…

Nearly 300 exuberant Fair Food supporters turn out to welcome the Return to Human Rights Tour back to Florida with a rocking rally and march through Tampa!

Now that is what we call a warm, down-home welcome:

More than two weeks after embarking on an odyssey that would ultimately cover 14 states and over 2,000 miles, the Return to Human Rights Tour crew was given a heroes’ welcome by nearly 300 of their closest friends in Tampa on Wednesday, including a massive march (above) from a Publix store to a Wendy’s restaurant, a joyous rally looking to a future of an ever more powerful Fair Food movement, and one super funky, custom-detailed low-rider (below):

The afternoon action was big, loud, full of creative signs and colorful art, and marked by the newest visual element in a campaign that has been known to make a strong visual statement from time to time: Fair Food parasols!

The parasols were popular…

… with all ages…

… because not only did they broadcast the marchers’ message quite effectively, but they were actually remarkably functional on what turned out to be a sunny, unseasonably warm Florida day:

At the designated hour of 5:00, the crowd quickly swelled to swallow the sidewalk outside the meeting point, the Publix Greenwise store on Azeele Street…

The size of the crowd caught the attention of the local police department, which sent a sizable contingent of its own to ensure an orderly flow to the day’s events…

But disorder was, as ever, the furthest thing from the Fair Food activists’ minds.  Instead, people put their minds to making their message heard through some of the most colorful and imaginative signs and art of the entire tour:

And the marchers didn’t rely on signs alone to get the word out about Fair Food and the need for Publix and Wendy’s to join the program that is the gold standard for human rights protection today.  The march was one of the loudest in recent memory, as people used bullhorns…

… drums…

… and the power of their own voices…

… to make their demands heard.  Even our very own traveling troubadours, the indefatigable jaranero crew, had a new percussion section for the day!

The march attracted the attention of many a curious bystander…

… including a few (hopefully former) Wendy’s customers…

… and, of course, the usual film crew from Publix:

Finally, after nearly three hours, it was time for the march to end with a rally outside the Wendy’s restaurant on Tampa’s busy Kennedy Boulevard.  The Wendy’s boycott message rang out with powerful speeches by the CIW’s Oscar Otzoy…

… Samantha May of the United Students Against Sweatshops (left), ably translated by Nashville’s Brenda Perez…

… and Ximena Pedroza of New College in nearby Sarasota…

… and Holly Rutherford of Eckerd College….

…who shared the exciting news that Florida students would be taking up the torch from Ohio and Michigan State students in fasting in the weeks ahead!

Finally, we closed with a prayer by Pastor Roy Terry of Cornerstone Methodist Church in Naples, a steadfast CIW ally and inspiration to us all:

Which brings us full circle to the beginning of the report, where we met this stunning work of art… 

… leaving the rally on its way back on to Kennedy Blvd and into the Tampa night, followed shortly thereafter by the caravan of buses and vans that ferried the CIW tour crew from stop to stop for two weeks of unforgettable action.

With that, the Return to Human Rights Tour is a wrap.  From the Sunshine State to its hometown of Columbus, Wendy’s felt the heat of a Fair Food Nation too long denied a simple request, perhaps best captured by CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo in Columbus:  Farmworkers want to live with freedom and dignity, and refuse to be forced to return to the dark days of wage theft, sexual abuse, and forced labor.  

No matter how hard Wendy’s fights to turn back the clock on human rights, the farmworkers whose lives and families are at stake — and the countless consumer allies who support them — will always fight back harder.  As the Campaign for Fair Food has proven over and over again, the fire born of fighting for one’s own freedom never dies, it just burns brighter.  Sooner or later, Wendy’s will realize that justice trumps avarice every time, as inevitably as a law of nature, and when they do, they will join the 14 other major food retailers on the right side of history.

On a final note: We want to thank the innumerable people of faith, students, worker leaders, and every day allies who opened their doors to the tour crew, who spent hours cooking hot meals and preparing rooms in which the travelers could lay tired heads, who donated financial resources to cover the tour bus, and who, of course, came out to the many colorful, spirited actions of the tour.  Without the generosity and solidarity of the Fair Food Nation, the CIW’s tours — and ultimately, the tours’ profound impact in advancing fundamental human rights in the fields — would be, quite simply, impossible.   

Stay tuned next week for a full news round-up, and more analysis from the Return to Human Rights Tour, including a closer look at Wendy’s increasingly desperate public message…  

, , ,