MoveOn escalates Target boycott, delivers 260,000 petitions to corporate headquarters

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August 2, 2010 // UPDATED 2:04 pm - August 6, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
A protest this afternoon at Target’s corporate headquarters, 1000 Nicollet Mall, culminated in an attempt to deliver to CEO Gregg Steinhafel 260,000 petitions, each urging the retailer to stop donating to political candidates.

The demonstration, organized by the progressive political action committee MoveOn, came on the heels of a $150,000 donation Target had made to MN Forward, a pro-business group that is backing Republican Tom Emmer’s bid for governor. The donation has triggered calls for boycotts from GLBT groups, who cite Emmer’s socially conservative stance on gay-rights issues.

Seinhafel issued an official apology to customers and employees yesterday, saying “I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.”

On July 29, MoveOn began gathering signatures online for a protest petition. In the following week, the group generated phone calls to Target headquarters and flooded the retailer’s Facebook page with complaints.

Around noon today, MoveOn’s Bob Brereton arrived at Target headquarters with hard copies of the 260,000 petition signatures. The print-outs filled three cardboard boxes, which Brereton had stacked on a dolly.

Randi Reitan, the now-famous Target boycotter whose checkout line tirade went viral on YouTube, addressed the crowd. Standing alongside her husband Philip and their son Jacob, a gay rights activist, Reitan decried the donation as an insensitive assault on its gay customers and employees.

“As a shopper at Target, their contribution was in part my money, and it was being used to attack the civil rights of my son,” she said. “Corporations are not people, and they should not attempt to buy an election which rightly belongs to the people.”

Philip Reitan described Emmer as “the most anti-gay person you can imagine running for governor.”

When asked if he would have condemned a similar sized donation to a progressive candidate, Philip Reitan said simply, “Target needs to say, ‘No more.’”

“I think when corporations, in light of this new law, start giving politically, it sets us down a very dangerous road,” added Jacob Reitan, referencing a Supreme Court ruling that allows companies to spend unlimited amounts to sway voters in federal races. “And my money shouldn’t be going to support politicians, as a consumer.”

Two Target representatives, diversity team leader Brad Wagner and GLBT business council co-chair Alexis Kantor, descended an escalator to meet the Retitans, who were denied an opportunity to see Steinhafel. When asked if the Target CEO was in the building, Wagner said he did not know.

“We are sorry,” Wagner said “We’re sorry that this decision effected people that we did not intend. Or we did not anticipate for it to intend. Going forward, we are also committed that we do things better. We have a system set up for a vetting process as we make these types of contributions.”

Asked if that meant Target would continue to make political donations, Wagner said, “We’re going to make sure that we hear from Target employees, so that we understand your thoughts, and that we also understand how to make sure we have a vetting process for the future.”

Wagner would not comment on the financial impact of the controversy.

Asked about what he would do with the stack of petitions, he said, “We’re gonna read them.”

Outside the headquarters, Target’s apology rang hollow for several protesters.

Said Natalie Westreich, “I’ve made apologies like that when someone’s been offended by what I’ve done, but I have felt that what I did was right. ‘I’m sorry that what I did made you unhappy, but I’m not sorry about what I did.’ And that’s what they’re saying.

“It’s not an apology,” she added. “It’s by no means an apology.”

Westreich said she would like to see Target make a similar donation to a progressive campaign and then cease donations altogether.

Downtown employee Pete O’Grady agreed. O’Grady has boycotted Target since hearing the news of the donation. He said the apology “is a start. But it’s missing the point. You can’t say you’re sorry and keep doing what you’re doing. We’re just hoping they make it right and balance the donation so that we can go back to shopping at Target. We miss it.”