Warning - this post contains some graphic images
After two years calling on City Beach to adopt corporate responsibility and withdraw their porn themed clothing range, Collective Shout recently held demonstrations outside two City Beach stores.
The purpose was to engage with the community and raise awareness right at the source of the problem - City Beach stores. We held signs, handed out flyers and showed passing shoppers some of the items City Beach are selling, including t-shirts, a pencil case and a wallet.
We have found the response from the public to be overwhelmingly supportive of our position. People were shocked. Responses ranged from 'completely agree' to 'I hadn't thought about that before, I see your point.' Most people can see how absurd and irresponsible it is for a retailer to be pushing porn themed products to their young target market.
The Sydney protest
Security guards arrived quickly after we assembled outside the Warringah Mall City Beach with signs, flyers and porn themed items purchased from City Beach. Caitlin Roper spoke with them explaining what we were doing and why we were there. The others in our group continued to walk around and mingle, handing out flyers and showing passing shoppers the merchandise sold at City Beach. People were shocked and horrified that such material was being sold, especially to young people. Many were vocal in their support.
Soon the weekend centre manager was there asking us to leave, offering to buy us all coffee and join us to discuss the issues if that would get us out of there. He was understanding of our cause but also eager for us to leave. He was overheard on the phone saying, “It’s bad- they’ve got flyers!” We had decided we would not be leaving unless it was the police who were moving us on.
The regular centre manager was called in specifically to meet with us. He heard our concerns, and attempted to liaise with City Beach, asking them to remove the pornographic items. City Beach management refused, saying they did not have the authority to make that call, and it was decided that City Beach Head Office would call me with a formal response. (Read about the telephone conversation here) The Police never arrived so we continued liaising with the public under the watchful eyes of 3 security guards surrounding us. We left 2 hours later, no flyers left and a list of almost 100 people who had signed hard copies of our online petition.
The Brisbane protest
Following on from the protest in Sydney, we decided to hold another protest in Brisbane. We had heard that international music act 'Switchfoot' - in town for the Soundwave Music Festival - would be playing an acoustic session inside City Beach's Queen Street Brisbane store. Knowing of Switchfoot's position on some of the issues we care about, we alerted them to City Beach's product range and called on them to withdraw from the event.
Switchfoot responded saying that although they agreed with our position on these issues, they would not be relocating their performance. You can read our views on this and Switchfoot's response here.
So we gathered outside the City Beach store and began handing out flyers to those exiting the store following Switchfoot's performance. We had signs which said 'City Beach sells sexism to teenage boys' and other images of the stock sold at City Beach. We also had some of the t-shirts on hand to show passing shoppers what City Beach were selling. We were positioned in such a way that we were the first thing people saw as they left the store.
Needless to say, Management was not impressed and they quickly phoned police. About half a dozen police officers came over and had a chat with us about the parameters within which we could continue our demonstration. We could stay where we were, but we could not approach the entrance of the store. One of the police officers was overheard saying to the store manager 'It's a free country mate, I can't move them on.' The presence of police officers drew even more attention to our protest.
After chatting to members of the public, we were greeted by members of the band Switchfoot who came out and introduced themselves individually.
John Foreman the lead singer of Switchfoot was friendly and supportive. He said that they were aware of the debate surrounding whether they should have performed at City Beach, but they wanted us to know that they supported what we were doing and thanked us for taking a stand. They indicated that they had spent a lot of time liaising with City Beach management on this issue, including asking City Beach to remove the porn themed stock from stores during their performance.
I (Melinda Liszewski) reiterated our concerns about their decision to play at the venue, but thanked them for taking the time to chat with us. We shook hands and I asked John if I could send him a follow up email with details of our petition and he said yes.
After the band left, a group of teenagers who had attended Switchfoot's performance came out to join us. They were very excited and hi-fived all of us, telling us they agreed with what we were doing. We had a great time chatting with them about activism, our protest and the issues they all care about. Receiving encouragement and support from these young people was a great way to cap off our afternoon of activism outside City Beach.
Please sign our petition here.
Share the petition on your Facebook page and Twitter, and email it to your friends and networks.
Like Say No to Porn T-shirts page on Facebook.
Contact City Beach directly here.
If you would like to join us for future protests and gatherings, let us know. We need more people to get involved and we would love to meet you!