Joel Mowbray

Most likely, overeager protesters misunderstood the spirit of the called-for Santa stunt.  And common sense dictates that didn’t want its activists getting in shoving matches with Wal-Mart personnel—which is what both the employees and the Broward County Sheriff’s office say happened.

But what seems undeniable is that at least wanted its protesters to try and provoke confrontation at individual stores.  Why else mention the possibility of arrest?  Yet what also seems undeniable is that, when questioned for this column, the wasn’t quite truthful at first.  Before being confronted about the internal communication, the spokesman was adamant that the union front group had “absolutely” never encouraged its protesters to be confrontational.

Perhaps fearful that the poorly executed production at the Florida Wal-Mart might cause serious damage to the hard-fought campaign, spokesman Paul Blank sent out a statement accusing the retailer of having “targeted” the two protesters who were arrested.  Mr. Blank refers to the race of the two no fewer than 7 times, and even demanded an apology from Wal-Mart for, in essence, racially-motivated arrests.

Given that the Broward County Sheriff’s office maintains that the man and woman arrested were the only ones who got physical—by shoving the manager and assistant manager after being asked to leave— is also, by extension, accusing the police of racism.  And lying.  Yet why wasn’t Mr. Blank willing to say so directly?

The irony in Mr. Blank playing the race card is that the protesters appear to have had race on their mind from the moment they walked inside the store.  According to several Wal-Mart employees, one of the union activists—described as a heavy-set white man—specifically asked for a female assistant manager, and when told they were paging her, he asked, “Is she white or is she black?”  After being told that the female assistant manager is black, the man snorted, “Hmm.  That’s unusual.”

Perhaps nothing more can be made of the man’s race question than the ramblings of a bizarre individual, but maybe there was a pre-planned racial element.  Considering that’s credibility is shot—from claiming that protesters were not instructed to be confrontational to shamelessly creating phony charges of racism—does it not seem a fair question to ask?

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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