Outside The Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens, a trio of protesters were just a small segment of protests both locally and nationally calling for a boycott of Black Friday.
Promoted over social media as #BlackoutBlackFriday, the movement calls for both blacks and those against racial inequality to stay away from large retailers both on the biggest shopping day of the year and other days throughout the year.
They included Florida International University law student Scheril Murray Powell, who says she began boycotting Black Friday in 2012 and continued after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as a form of economic activism against police shootings involving mostly black young men.
That sense of activism, Powell said, was heightened with last month’s shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones, a stranded black motorist gunned down by now-fired Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Norman Raja.
“Even if I was the only one out here, I’d still be here,” Powell said. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and this is how I’m doing it.”
Brad Goldstein, a spokesman from a firm The Gardens Mall hired specifically to address protests in the wake of Jones death, said he was unaware of any other protests aside from the one where Powell stood. He said he didn’t think National Blackout founder and Black Lawyers for Justice president, Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz, was at the mall.
“Our sympathies go out to the Jones family,” Goldstein said, adding: “The mall had nothing to do with the tragedy.”
At one point during Friday’s demonstration, a white man in a gray BMW slowed down at the intersection, rolled down his window and said, “Don’t forget Corey.”
Powell, who two weeks ago organized a panel discussion and candlelight vigil in honor of Jones in Broward County, told the man that Jones was the reason why they were there.
Ayanna Asante, a local co-chair of the National Blackout, one of the organizations spearheading the calls for the boycott, said members of the group in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and other places of recent shootings involving white police officers have turned out in droves.
Asante and her daughter joined Powell on PGA Boulevard, along with a handful of others who came and went, with plans to conduct other protests elsewhere.
Their hope, organizers say, is to force business leaders and politicians to address racial injustice by forcing them to recognize the impact of blacks as consumers.
According to an ongoing Nielsen study of African American consumerism, whose latest findings were released in September, blacks were expected to spend about $1 trillion nationally this year.