As we posted on December 26th, a small protest inside Cliff’s Variety Store on Christmas eve around the sale of SodaStream Soda Maker, a carbonating water system manufactured in the disputed Israeli-occupied territories in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim, turned physical when Cliff’s employees physically ejected demonstrators from the store.
Police arrived on the scene 25 minutes after being called to find a few of the older members of the group bruised and a bit worse for wear. Statements were taken and some of the protestors have filed assault complaints with the SFPD over their treatment at the hands of Cliff’s employees.
Store manager and Merchants of Upper Market Castro (MUMC) President, Terry Bennet, countered her staff weren’t trained to deal with these sort of situations and that the protestors hit one of her staff first and in the jostle to remove them knocked into an as yet unidentified customer with a child in a stroller.
On the 28th of December a group of 25 protestors returned to the store-this time remaining outside-for an hour long, peaceful, vigil to outreach to the Castro community at large.
They held a picket and passed out information sheets on the particulars of their position regarding the SodaStream product and why they feel it shouldn’t be sold at Cliff’s. Reaction was mixed with some supporting and other’s vocally taunting the protestors saying they, “got what they deserved” last time.
Many within the Castro have wondered why Cliff’s, a small family owned business and mainstay of the neighborhood, has been targeted when many large, nationwide corporations also stock the protested product? The group have taken their call for a boycott to large box, corporate stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond who stock SodaStream. Videos posted to You Tube show the group engaging in similar protest tactics at Bed, Bath & Beyond they used at Cliff’s on Xmas eve minus the manhandling.
These protests are not just in San Francisco but have been taking place all over the world. 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
Protestors point out they’ve petitioned Cliffs ,via Ms. Bennet, for more than eight months to remove SodaStream and replace it with other similarly priced products that function in the same way and aren’t financially involved or supporting the ongoing political conflict between Israel and Palestine. Ms. Bennet has declined their entreaties. Protestors stated they will continue the campaign at Cliff’s and at any other store until there is diversification.
SodaStream was founded in 1903, grossed $275.36 million worldwide for the fiscal year of 2011, and is a strong campaigner for eco/green issues with a specialty focus on removing bottle and can waste from land fills. They assert that by using their product a family of four could keep 10,657 cans and bottles out of landfills on average over five years.