The local media have been in a delirious cycle of reporting regarding the teenage Parkland activist, David Hogg, and his latest target of activism -- Publix Supermarkets. Hogg’s overblown outrage at the Lakeland-based company was due to a very weak connection to his gun activism -- the company made donations to Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, an avowed supporter of the Second Amendment and the NRA -- and Hogg went into full-throated outrage anyway.
Encouraged by a story from the Tampa Bay Times, inside a week Hogg went from personal protest to public boycott. Still not a big enough reaction for this attention-loving young man.
So, on Friday, he went for the home run, trying to extort $1 million from the state's largest employer, for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund. Publix was told to comply, or he would orchestrate die-in protests at the company's stores. Well, to its credit, the supermarket never capitulated.
Hogg kept his promise, went out to the store location nearest the school, where he and other students laid down in the parking lot so they could draw outlines of their bodies.
This action was completed with the aid of a public artist, because frankly when it comes to stringing up police tape and drawing stick figures on the asphalt, it requires the skills of a professional artist. The 17 figures in front of the store, one for each victim of the Feb 14 school shooting, were created with the intention of making a connection to the store that has never made a donation to the NRA or to the Parkland tragedy.
Not being an activist myself, I will leave it to others to measure the success of messaging in drawing chalk outlines during tropical depression, 100-percent-rain conditions. But tellingly, there were copious media on site to cover what was described as a very dramatic “art installation.”
That afternoon Hogg and fellow students and supporters occupied the store. They sprawled out on the floor, and it led to gripping imagery -- dozens of kids on their backs, as David intoned messaging via bullhorn, while numerous shoppers stepped over the “corpses” as they went about their task of selecting items from shelves, ignoring their drama. That visual apathy, however, was not enough, and the company buckled to Hogg’s demands -- in a sneaky, not-really sort of way.
On Friday the company issued another statement, this time addressing its position regarding donations in general. “We regret our contributions have led to a divide in our community,” the store wrote.“We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve. As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we re-evaluate our giving processes.”
A comical and hollow ending for Hogg. No money for the school's Victims Fund, the company has already donated to Putnam anyway, and the Hogg protest ended in a whimper.
Given that supermarket ownership is rethinking its “giving processes,” this means just as Hogg was demanding a donation, the response to his strong-arm tactics was the store curtailing donations. Putnam gets no more money, but neither will his cause. Maybe going forward, this will encourage the teen activist to rethink his aggressive strategy, and maybe work to convince others, not coerce them, to his cause.
Following the Publix announcement, Hogg tweeted out this message: “Together we can do anything. Together the young people will win by choosing love.” Apparently “love” entails threats, extortion, and trespassing in order to get your way. I wonder how much more of this affection the community is willing to tolerate.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this piece exclusively for Sunshine State News. Slager writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.