Flash Mob Boycotts Westin St. Francis

by Paul Hogarth on May 11, 2010

What do you get when you combine good old direct action tactics, a boisterous hotel boycott and a Lady Gaga hit? A YouTube flashmob called “Caught in a Bad Hotel.” On May 8th, San Francisco Pride at Work teamed up with One Struggle One Fight and the Brass Liberation Orchestra in a direct action to urge a boycott of the Westin St. Francis on Union Square. Workers at the hotel have been fighting for a fair union contract that includes decent wages and healthcare benefits, and are now calling on the community to boycott the Westin St. Francis, along with other downtown hotels. This 5-minute video is one of the funnest political protests I’ve ever seen. As one participant later said, “it’s more fun to protest with the gays, cause we’ve got the attitude and we know how to dance.” For details, check out http://www.sfprideatwork.org

Besides being a very fun and enjoyable video, this kind of protest is far more effective than the standard demonstrations that liberal San Francisco has gotten used to. In Taking On the System, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas argues that political activists must adapt to the technology of their era. Gandhi used newsreels shown in movie theaters, Sixties protesters used the mass street protest — which was effective at the time, because everyone only watched 3 channels and getting Walter Cronkite on your side could move the country. Today, with our decentralized media and more people online, YouTube flash-mobs are the direct action of the future.

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