Whole Foods is seeking a temporary restraining order against members of the East Bay-headquartered animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere and its co-founder Wayne Hsiung. The Amazon-owned business is taking the legal action ahead of a planned week of protests scheduled by Direct Action Everywhere at Whole Foods’s Berkeley, California store (3000 Telegraph Avenue). In light of the legal complaint, the fate of the protests, advertised as #OccupyWholeFoods, is unclear.
Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, has put Whole Foods in its crosshairs for years, with its Bay Area locations a natural target for protests. Since 2014, DxE — whose stated goal is “total animal liberation” — has made allegations of animal cruelty against many Whole Foods suppliers and protested frequently in its stores, with members dressing in fake blood, allegedly obstructing aisles, and so on.
According to a Whole Foods representative, “DxE members have repeatedly entered our stores and property to conduct demonstrations that disrupt customers and team members by blocking access to our aisles, departments, and cash registers, interfering with our business and putting the safety of both customers and team members at risk.”
Per the complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Whole Foods seeks to “assert and defend their right to manage, control, and operate their businesses on company property... free from [Direct action Everywhere’s] repeated and continuing trespasses and other unlawful conduct.”
According to DxE spokesperson Matt Johnson, Whole Foods’ tactic of legal action against Direct Action Everywhere is tied to its new Amazon ownership. “We didn’t see this kind of crackdown... until around the time they were acquired,” he alleges.
As for the planned occupation: After a court date tomorrow, “we’ll see what’s decided there and respond accordingly,” says Johnson.