People Protest to “Take Back Thanksgiving”


Tom Smyth proudly holds up a sign during the Nov. 13 protest in Ann Arbor.

Sophia Werthmann: I’m Sophia Werthmann and this is The Communicator.

SW: On Thursday, Nov. 13, people gathered near a Red Robin by Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, Mich. The small amount of snow on the ground was accompanied by people holding up picket signs. The group protesting all had the same desire. As they put it, they all wanted to take back Thanksgiving.

SW: The rally occurred because of an organization founded about two years ago called, “Take Back Thanksgiving.” And while the protest happened in Ann Arbor, another went down outside of a Walmart in Roseville, Mich. The Facebook page linked to the organization, titled “Save Thanksgiving,” currently has 12,511 likes.

SW: For these protesters, it’s a problem that stores that are not vital to the public are open on Thanksgiving day.

Annie Zirkel: We’re really disappointed that, that retailers have decided that it’s not our national holiday, it’s another day for people to shop. And they have 363 days of the year, we would like two of them to not be about shopping.

SW: That was Annie Zirkel, an Ann Arbor resident and founder of the organization who began planning this event the week before it occurred. According to her, a total of about 30 people showed up to the protest.

SW: Joe Summers, a local pastor, was another person present at the protest. He emphasized the idea of family.

Joe Summers: Healthy families, healthy communities depend on people having time together, and increasingly, more and more of our workers don’t have weekends off, and that means that these few days of the year where people have a chance to gather and be together are absolutely vital for the health and well-being of our families. And no amount of shopping can make up for that.

SW: Tom Smyth, a Technology Consultant who is originally from Canada, said that Thanksgiving has become his favorite holiday. He took a break from protesting and explained the situation between the mall and the stores there.

Tom Smyth: I’m pretty opposed to what the mall management is doing, they’re opening the mall at six o’clock on Thanksgiving, and they are levying a fine against any businesses that fail to open when the mall is open. So even if a business wanted to not open their store on Thanksgiving, to spend time, to allow their workers to spend time with their families, they’re going to be prevented from doing so because of this, this fine.

SW: However, Zirkel explained on Nov. 13, that there had been some confusion as to if stores would be fined for closing, and if so, how much. But as of Nov. 26, Briarwood Mall will be open on Thanksgiving, but retailers will not be fined for closing. It has been confirmed that 25 stores in the mall will not be open on the holiday.

SW: Shopping times didn’t always used to be this way. Zirkel explained how retail hours have continued to grow over the past years.

AZ: We’ve been watching the retail creep into Thanksgiving for years now, you know, Black Friday, 6 a.m., 4 a.m.. then midnight. And then it crossed the line two years ago in 10 p.m., in[to] Thanksgiving. And then it was 8 p.m. last year, and now this year it’s 6 p.m., and in some places, in some stores, it’s all day, or 5 p.m., or whatever. And we’re really disappointed, that, that retailers have decided that it’s not our national holiday, it’s another day for people to shop.

SW: Leslie Depietro, another protester who writes for an online journal, and has never had to work on Thanksgiving, stated her opinion on the issue.

Leslie Depietro: They’re overstepping what should be a family day and a day for giving thanks, and for, for being grateful for what we have, and turning it into the profit motive. And that really offends me.

SW: Depietro said that while Briarwood mall might not close despite their efforts, they hope that people won’t shop there on Thanksgiving day anyways.

SW: Zirkel even got the opinions of a couple of mall workers.

AZ: So I interviewed two young women who were working in one of the kiosks, and they were so distressed. They – I would say they were about 20 years old, and their families are like, “What do you mean you’re not gonna be here for Thanksgiving?” And they wanna be with their families, which I think is fabulous.

SW: Now, you might be asking yourself, who goes to the mall on Thanksgiving?

AZ: One of the women told me that it’s almost all teens and 20-year-olds coming in. It’s like, “We’ve done the family thing, now we wanna go be with our friends at the mall.” And I think it’s great that you wanna go be with your friends if that’s what you want to do, but when you’re at the mall, or you’re at, you’re at these stores, then people have to leave their, their Thanksgivings, in order to serve you.

SW: I’m Sophia Werthmann and this is The Communicator. Thanks for listening, and have a great holiday.


Click on the podcast below to hear how people are trying to “take back Thanksgiving.”