Chicago: Four arrested at Body Shop in vigil for Displaced Colombians


August 1, 2010
Chicago: Four arrested at Body Shop in vigil for Displaced Colombians

Chicago police arrested four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Monday, 19 July on charges of trespass for praying inside The Body Shop during a noon-hour vigil at the downtown store.

The Body Shop purchases palm oil from Daabon Organics, a Colombian company involved in the forced eviction of 123 families from their ancestral lands in the community of Las Pavas, Colombia.  With their land confiscated, homes burned, and crops destroyed, the families (some 500 men, women and children) set up camp in a nearby schoolyard and have subsisted on corn fritters and cheese since being displaced one year ago.

Four CPTers wearing t-shirts with photographs of the displaced farmers entered The Body Shop store and explained their presence to store clerks.

“We affirm The Body Shop’s stated values, which include defending human rights and protecting the planet, and we know that you do too,” said a letter to store personnel.  “We are here to join the families of Las Pavas in calling on The Body Shop to live up to these values by pressuring its Colombian supplier, Daabon, to withdraw from Las Pavas, return the land to its rightful owners, and compensate the community for all losses.”

The four sat down by the door, near products that contain Colombian palm oil, where they prayed, sang and broke bread together until police arrested them 40 minutes later.  All were released that same night and will be arraigned on 31 August.

Outside the store, CPTers set up a tent on the sidewalk symbolizing the displacement of Las Pavas families.  Enlarged photos of the displaced surrounded the tent and a banner urged The Body Shop to live up to its values.

Vigil participants sang an adapted version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star:
    Body Shop says people count
    But Colombian soldiers kicked the farmers out
    Now the oil palms ruin the land
    But the people are taking a stand
    We say Body Shop you can too
    Return the land, give the people their due.

Others distributed nearly 1000 educational leaflets to interested passersby, urging them to express their concerns to The Body Shop executives.

Although The Body Shop claims to be “monitoring the situation closely,” they have so far taken no action to sever ties with Daabon.  The people of Las Pavas have asked CPT’s Colombia team and supporters to continue pressuring The Body Shop to stop buying from Daabon because Daabon’s practices violate their corporate values.

Participants in CPT’s peacemaker training organized the witness.  Those arrested were: Marcus Armstrong (Milton Keynes, UK), Lor Breyley (Michigan, USA), Jo Ann Fricke (Illinois, USA), and Carol Rose – CPT Co-Director (Illinois, USA).  Other training participants are: Bud Courtney (New York, USA), Ian Stumpf (Ontario, Canada), Janelle Thiessen (Manitoba, Canada), Kathy Thiessen (Manitoba, Canada), James Thomas (South Carolina, USA), Laurens Van Esch (Utrecht, Netherlands), and Courtnay Wilson (Ontario, Canada).

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