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Whole Foods Seeks Expanded Restraining Order Against Animal Rights Demonstrators

After 37 protestors were arrested in San Francisco this week

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Protestors blocked a Whole Foods location in San Francisco on Monday
Protestors blocked a Whole Foods location in San Francisco on Monday

After a protest at a San Francisco Whole Foods store in which 37 animal rights demonstrators were arrested on Monday, Whole Foods is returning to a California judge to seek relief. The Amazon-owned company is asking for an expanded injunction to keep protesters, who are members of the group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, out of all its Californian stores.

Last year, a California Superior Court judge granted Whole Foods’ preliminary injunction against protesters from Berkeley-based DxE, blocking them from five Whole Foods stores in which they repeatedly protested. But now, after more protests in more stores, the grocer is asking that the court expand that injunction while it awaits a trial next year.

“As a retailer, it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our customers and team members,” said a Whole Foods representative, who referred to DxE’s actions as “dangerous.”

DxE, whose goal is “total animal liberation,” has made allegations of animal cruelty against Whole Foods meat suppliers. The group’s co-founder, Wayne Hsiung, was arrested last year for trespassing after allegedly trying to interview Whole Foods customers on film about eating meat at a Boulder, Colorado store location. While Whole Foods is a central target of the group, it’s not the only one. In 2017, DxE threatened a small Berkeley butcher shop with weekly protests unless the shop displayed an anti-meat sign in its window. The butcher ultimately agreed.

Just as Whole Foods opened the doors to its Noe Valley store on Monday morning, protesters from DxE stormed the premises, scaling the roof to hoist a large image of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and chaining themselves together in front of the entrance and exit. According to Whole Foods, some Noe Valley customers were forced to leave via emergency exits, and the store was closed for five hours.

In its court filing, Whole Foods points to recent DxE demonstrations across the state, like an August 27 incident in which a protester locked herself in a small cage at a Petaluma Whole Foods and later attempted to enter a meat prep room — a potential safety and consumer health issue, according to the market. Another instance involved an August 18 protest at Whole Foods in San Diego in which 50 protestors lay down in a store aisle, impeding customers and workers.

A Superior Court judge is expected to rule on the expanded injunction in the coming days. But according to a spokesperson for DxE, even that won’t necessarily stop their protest tactics.

“It’s not an automatic ‘no,’” said DxE press coordinator Matt Johnson. “There could be a future scenario where as a massive group [we] deliberately step across this, because what we’re talking about is criminal animal cruelty.”

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