VIDEO: Protestors invade Cliff’s Variety Store

Protestor's singing inside Cliff's Variety Store

Protestor’s singing inside Cliff’s Variety Store

Store employees at Cliff’s Variety had a heck of a time kicking out protestors December 24th according to a video recorded by YouTuber and local videographer Peter Menchini.

In the video a group of 12 or so folks take over the accessories aisle where the product SodaStream is located. The protestors, with jingle bells in hand, then sang their own rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with lyrics that criticized Cliff’s for selling the product and calling for it’s removal from the shelves.

Googling for “Soda Stream controversy” returned a Wikipedia article on Soda Stream that notes,

“Sodastream has been criticized for operating a manufacturing plant on land in the West Bank by the Israeli non-governmental organizations Coalition of Women for Peace and Peace Now, as well as other human rights organizations.”

According to critics, SodaStream misleads consumers by marketing its devices and bottles under a ‘Made in Israel’ label when the devices are actually made in disputed territories in the West Bank.

After the song, store employees asked the protestors to leave the store, which they did not. Store employees then began yelling and using physical force to get the protestors out of the store. It is not clear if Cliff’s had called the police to handle the situation. According to the YouTube video description, videographer Menchini’s camera was grabbed from his hand and he was cut in the process. Dov Baum, one of the protestors, indicated that 3 other protestors filed assault complaints with the SF Police Department. He also indicated that the group had approached Cliff’s about the product in the past only to have Cliff’s move it to the front-window display. Baum has organized a “Vigil” outside Cliff’s on Friday at noon where they will protest Cliff’s for carrying the product and let shoppers know about where the product is made.

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about drag queens, bicycling, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. From the video, it seems to me that Cliff’s store employees attacked the protesters while yelling at them to leave the store.

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    • Roy says:

      It seems they ended up using force after repeatedly asking them to go. Maybe letting the police deal with them would have been smarter.

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      • Waiyde says:

        According to law-employees may NOT use physical force on anyone UNLESS physically assaulted first and then only in self defense. The police should’ve been called and then the protestors could’ve been charged with trespassing or disturbing the peace. As it stands now they could easily file assault charges against the employees if they so wished.

        And to be clear-these protestors were middle aged and older women-not hardened criminals making a mess-they sang a song. Hardly a call for physical assault as the following two ‘gentlemen’ comment below suggest is beyond understanding.

        It’s America folks. People still have the right to PEACEFULLY protest-in or out of the store. If you don’t like the rules of the constitution feel free to write your congressperson.

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  2. They should be prosecuted, and arrested. These vigilantes think they own the Castro. Clliff’s history in the Castro has a reputation 2nd to none with all kinds of good deeds for 30 years. I hope the next time the police will be called. I’ve come in contact with these so called Pro-Palestinians flash mobs with-in many gay organizations. They take over good groups from within, just like the communist did in the 30s & 40s, I hope that good people come to the aid of Cliff’s.

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    • Waiyde says:

      Hahaha! Showing your Joe McCarthy side a bit Jerry. Communist took over what? Red Herring baiting and dropping ‘commie’ bomb-haven’t seen that since the late 80′s. ‘So called Pro-Palestine’? Is it a bad thing being for a group of people whose been displaced from their homeland and treated to a level of apartheid that rivals that of South Africa is some sort of bad thing? Don’t like their tactics? Fine. Entitled to your opinion. Sadly you don’t think they deserve the same courtesy.

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      • For the record, I handled PR for the Castro Bean in the 70s & 80s on Castro St. it was Palestinian owned. We always got along and had peaceful political discussions. This mob should of protested from the outside, and not with-in the store. They were asked to leave… they didn’t.

        I joined JOIN THE IMPACT several years ago. It had a great gay social cause until just a handful took over and started an anti-Israeli campaign, similar to the one in Toronto that wanted to use the Gay Parade for anti-Israeli propaganda. Cliff Hardware has been a great community leader. Harvey Milk’s partner Scott Smith worked there. Every Halloween, Cliff helped by making funds and getting permits to close off the street. Courtesy does not grant you permission to use other people property to advance your own cause. They also took photos within the store that is against the law… they must ask permission, as well as get permission of anyone within the store if they photograph them.

        Saying I am on the side of Joe McCarthy is laughable. To defend this group is pure bullshit… have they tried protesting at Macy’s or Bed,Bath and Beyond where this product is sold? AS for Israel and their Human Rights record… they may not bat a thousand… but at least they don’t behead consenting adults or have public hangings of gay teen age kids or fire rockets from school yards and hospital roof tops.

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        • Waiyde says:

          Actually they have protested at every place you’ve mentioned.

          Additionally Israel’s HR record is just as besmirched with black marks. Or doesn’t all the bombings, assassinations, shooting children throwing rocks, destroying homes with bulldozers and annexing land not theirs count with you. Not to mention the mob of ultra right wing conservative Jews who beat and stabbed members of the LGBT community attempting to hold a parade in Jerusalem every time it’s been attempted to be held.

          Thank you for rolling out your activist resume. That makes your opinion and view so much more accurate.

          Your wholesale diatribe analysis of the event and issue based on your work/life in SF that ended decades ago is also, in your words, ‘bullshit’.

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          • Again for the record… It was people like me who helped jump start the early gay rights movement in S.F. that paved the way for the Castro becoming America’s gay mecca. I moved from S.F. when too many of my friends died from AIDS, and gay landlords like Paul Langley priced small gay businesses out of business by raising rents , including residential property. My involvement is well documented and all you have to do is do a google search on my name on the web and images. It’s not bull shit… you fit that description much better then I do. Also, check the web and see Israel’s Human Rights Record and see how many Israeli Jews have received Nobel prizes for medicine and compare them to all the Arab countries in the World. Just as many Jews were kicked out Arab countries… often without their belongings… and many were killed just for being Jewish. However, trying to respond to you in a civilize way is just a waste of my time. What is sad are those bullies who call themselves gay rights advocates for causes like nudity in public areas or trespassing on one of the best stores in the Castro . I’m proud of my contributions to the betterment of all gays for over 40 years and still active. Just this year I was inducted into Chicago’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame, primarily for my ongoing work in GLBT causes. So when idiots like you say it’s bull shit… all I do is say Where’s your contributions to the gay movement? Sadly, it’s people like you who can not back your words with deeds or fact who always stoop to name calling instead of working for solutions. I urge you to look at http://www.thecastro.net/street/memoriespage/pritikin/pritikin.html

            so you can see why my deeds are well documented.

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          • Waiyde says:

            Gurl. Then/now. “FAME”. Wow. Does this diatribe come with a soundtrack for effect? I DO appreciate all the hard work every generation of activist has gone through to get us where we are as a people. However that doesn’t ever give anyone the right to think they’re always right. We have diverged on many paths. Your contributions will always be appreciated. However, to this discussion, they have little germane to offer other than your opinion. Call me idiot all you wish if it makes you feel better. Truth is you are in Chicago, years removed from the City and these issues, forging ahead in new areas of interest-but-you. are. not. here. You have zero experience in this particular issue, people, Supervisors or particulars. I will leave it there. Rage on. Best of luck. Keep up the good fight. In Chicago.

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    • Terripin says:

      They did. Apparently a group organized a “cash mob” on Sunday, Feb 10, and dozens of community members showed up to shop at Cliff’s, just to show them that the community stand with them. Yep, Cliff’s just donated $3000 to the Harvey milk school. They are the good guys, not the people in this heavily edited clip

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  3. Joe says:

    I think the Cliff’s staff showed restraint. I would have picked up a pitch folk or shovel to escort them out. Cliff’s is private property, and after being asked to leave, they should have. Don’t like what a store is selling, don’t buy it. But to harass and intimidate hourly blue collar employees just makes whatever their cause is worthless.

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    • Ramón says:

      Would you be sporting your usual white sheet while wielding that pitchfork, or would you opt for festive holiday colors?

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      • Joe says:

        Ramon,
        You really should study the history of Palestine. Over and over you will find a society more interested in blowing up babies, then working for peace. So baby killers are worth harassing small local businesses over? Give me a break.
        No sheet for me, just jeans, tee and my gold Star of David, that always around my neck.

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        • Ramón says:

          “I would have picked up a pitch folk or shovel to escort them out.” – Yes, I see your point about those violent baby killers.
          Mohammed Al Dura and others in the global community, such as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela would disagree with you, but who could stand up to the business-end of a pitchfork?

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        • Waiyde says:

          Israel is without blame or culpability in this ongoing situation and never ending bloody conflict? Speaking of needing to do research! One can be pro-Israel/Jewish without being anti-Palestinian/Arab. Hating either group is essentially anti-Semantic.

          Side note since you seem to think it’s important to raise distinctions: A majority of the protestors who took part at Cliff’s are Jewish.

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          • Joe says:

            Self hating Jew’s. I don’t hate the Palestinians, feel sorry they follow their leaders. Israel has offered solutions, but the leadership would rather keep killing women and children.

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          • Ramón says:

            “Self hating Jew’s.” – Because they disagree with you. Not only do you pack a mean pitchfork, you also paint with a very wide brush.

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  4. Ramón says:

    “They should be prosecuted, and arrested. These vigilantes think they own the Castro.” – That’s a queer; I feel the same way about people trying to mold the Castro in to some latter day Mayberry.

    After all, what’s the beef, none of them were nude!

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  5. Me says:

    I asked one of these “protesters” if he was concerned with the anti-gay violence being perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority & Hamas against their own people. The “protester” responded by accusing me of supporting spousal abuse.
    These protesters are not sane, rational people. They don’t want peace because peace would rob them of their stage. They’ve been bullying the neighborhood for far too long, and they need to be stopped.

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    • Ramón says:

      “They’ve been bullying the neighborhood for far too long, and they need to be stopped.”
      Could you please share other instances when this group has bullied us? I don’t recall that happening in the decades that I’ve lived here.

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      • Me says:

        I meant to attach my response to Ramon directly to this thread. See below.

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        • Waiyde says:

          It’s erroneous to state the Mr. Petrelis is part of the group protesting at Cliff’s based on the fact that he supports their actions through his blog. What Mr. Petrelis has done in the past as part of his own political agenda is his own. It’s a misnomer to associate the group protesting at Cliff’s with his present or past actions with AIDS denialists activists of the late 90′s and early 2000′s.

          The ‘Trans flag flap’ as you mentioned did not target Cliff’s, but MUMC and it’s president, who happens to be the GM of Cliff’s. ‘The Flap’ was an outright case of discrimination and if you’d read our posts, spoke to the activists of all gender identities who were involved and the subsequent change of mind by the MUMC-supported by Sup. Scott Wiener and every group within the Castro-you’d have a better understanding of the issue.

          Disagree with the actions of the protestors but it would help any argument you present to have accurate facts on them and their goals and not be mired in misconceptions.

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          • Me says:

            Cliff’s pays for the upkeep of the flagpole out of pocket. As far as I know, no government funds go into it’s upkeep. Cliff’s actually pays someone to raise & lower the flag, clean the flag, clean & paint the flagpole. If the trans community wants to see their flag fly, they should contribute to the upkeep of the flagpole, instead of making threats and organizing boycotts. I say that as someone who supports the flying of the trans flag.
            As far as the local pro-Palestinian crowd, I don’t give a shit if they’re Jewish or not. Most Arab governments, Palestinian Authority & Hamas included, have official policies of anti-LGBT violence against their own people. I’m tired of these local self-hating bullies giving that anti-LGBT violence a free pass.
            STAND UP FOR THE LGBT PEOPLE WHO NEED US!

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          • Waiyde says:

            Again. You’re misinformed. MUMC pays for the upkeep of the pole and flag. Volunteers raise it and lower it as asked. The MUMC does it as a ‘trust’ they were bequeathed from Gilbert Baker, the original maker of the LGBT Pride Flag and keeper of the pole. The pole itself is on public land-thus-any can ask to fly the flag which is what OUR community did-it’s not the ‘Trans’ community-it’s ‘OUR’ community. Their flag is our flag. If you’re familiar with our history you know that none of the freedoms you enjoy now would’ve been made possible without drag queens and trans people leading the charge to acquire them.

            As for Arabic anti-Queer attitude that is well documented. Much like our own and that of Israel where LGBT activists have been stoned in Jerusalem by Hasidic and Ultra Right Wing Zionist every time they’ve attempted to have a pride event. One thing everyone agrees on in that neck of the woods is that Queers deserve to die.

            Labeling protestors bullies and self hating speaks volumes about you and your positions and lack of understanding of the First Amendment right to protest. None of these protests have been violent. Most of the protestors are women well into middle age-not exactly the demographic for violent protestors. Exactly who among the LGBT people do you wish to ‘stand up for’ since it doesn’t seem to be Trans, people that support Trans, or Queer protestors that don’t agree with your views?

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  6. Me says:

    Michael Petrelis is part of that crowd. Though Pettelis didn’t take part in this particular action, he supported it at his blog. You can Google Petrelis’ name and read about the threatening 3AM phone calls he made to AIDS researchers at UCSF, and to Tim Redmond at Bay Guardian.
    The trans flag flap from two months back, which also targeted Cliff’s, is another example. These radicals talk about “tolerance, diversity, inclusion & free speech” but all they ever do is issue orders, then viciously attack whoever doesn’t “obey.”
    One of the things we’re expected to put up with are homeless, mentally ill people pissing all over the neighborhood and calling us “faggot.” Any suggestion that the homeless people should be taken to doctor’s offices for treatment is labeled “facism” by the radical crowd.
    Then there’s Quit Palestine, another “Queer Pro Palestinian” group. Indybay reported that QUIT tried to disrupt a screening of the documentary Invisible Men at the Roxie Theater–this was a film who’s purpose was to give a voice to gay Palestinian men. QUIT tried to silence those voices so they could scapegoat Israel for their own behavior.

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  7. Me says:

    I would stand up for the LGBT Arabs who are being beaten & murdered by their own governments.
    I would stand up for anyone, trans or otherwise, to have access to the use of the flagpole as long as they’re willing to contribute to it’s maintenance.

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    • Waiyde says:

      Everyone already does contribute to the upkeep of the flag/pole if they shop at a Castro store that’s a member of Merchants of Upper Market Castro Biz Association. All LGBT people need to be protected regardless of their country of origin. Which is exactly why the Trans flag was flown on the Int’l Day of Remembrance for our Trans family murdered in this country and worldwide.

      Sadly you don’t seem to acknowledge the plethora of misinformation you were using as basis for your previous arguments.

      Wish you the best of luck and thank you for reading and the exchange.

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  8. WilloSF says:

    this thread seems to have wandered. I still think that the original “protesters” are idiots regardless of their “cause.” Making a scene and causing havoc on Christmas Eve in a neighborhood retail store over selling one product which is carried everywherethefuckelse as some sort of global political protest is insane. Actually indicative of crazy. The Soda Stream is sold in every other relevant retail outlet too, but they attack a community business? Where were their protests at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s etc? Or the Soda Stream offices? Or the distributers’? Are they going to block peaceful commerce in other family-owned community stores like Cole Hardware next, where it will have the most negative impact on a neighbor and zero impact for their cause?

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  9. Ramón says:

    Perhaps REREADING Waiyde’s December 27th, 12:37 PM comment will address your rant.
    When did protest, as a public act of raising awareness, become anathema in the Castro?
    Seriously, Cliff’s can weather this storm; after all it’s been in business for a very long time. My neighbor who is a grandmother fondly remembers Cliff’s Halloween parties when she was a little girl, so a group of women armed with courage and conviction are not a presage of doom.

    “None Of Us Are Free – If One Of Us Is Chained”

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  10. Terripin says:

    The community had the last laugh. On Sunday Feb. 10 , dozens of people stood in line before Cliff’s opened, to offer their support, the old fashioned way. By shopping. It was a lovely thing to see, with both shoppers and Cliff’s employees smiling radiantly.

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  11. jcp-sf says:

    I’m not certain I would agree with the “community had the last laugh.” Understand, I’ve been a Castro resident going on two decades and Cliff’s has long been one of my favorite destinations in the neighborhood, and I have spent far too much money there. However, having also worked many years in retail managing a variety of high-volume stores with 100+ employees, I admit I am troubled by this incident—particularly the lack of explanation on Cliff’s part.

    Let me say, the shear anger and hatred visible on several of the employee faces in the video upset me. I understand that the video may have been strategically edited to make the employees appear as the bad guys but, those hateful expressions cannot be applied in post-production. Also, again allowing for strategic editing, the manhandling of the protestors not only seems unnecessary but is very unwise from a legal standpoint and shows that Cliff’s has some gaps in their employee training program.

    I am dismayed that Cliff’s has not addressed the incident beyond their initial statements directly following the incident. I expect they may not be permitted to address the incident if there is any pending litigation but, a statement simply stating that would at least make me feel acknowledged as a concerned customer. If they have no legal restrictions, why haven’t they attempted to reach out?

    As it stands, I’ve been back to Cliff’s once since the incident, a sharp decline from my former routine of several visits weekly. I simply haven’t made up my mind about it all. On my one visit since then, the cashier who assisted me was one of the angry faces from the video and the angry face was all I could see. I hope that Cliff’s management eventually acknowledges their own missteps and reaches out to the community to resolve. I look forward to returning to Cliff’s but, at the moment, I don’t see that in the near future.

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    • Julia bennett says:

      What was edited out of the clip was one of Cliff’s employees getting bitten. I can absolutely see that they were at the end of their rope. If the protesters had stayed in the gutter where they belonged, none of this would have happened. Invading the store was wrong, and to do this on Christmas eve when everyone is so stressed already was just cruel.

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    • Julia bennett says:

      If I can known about a day of support for Cliff’s I would have attended. Maybe the community should plan another, and this time give it some publicity. I love Cliff’s and Cliff’s employees and their service. It’s a San Francisco institution that deserves our support.

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