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Target to face Black Friday protest at its State Street store

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and mayoral candidate Gery Chico

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and mayoral candidate Gery Chico at a rally to keep two Target stores open on Chicago's South Side. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Protesters outside a downtown Target store Monday said they’re planning another rally on Black Friday to voice their disapproval of the retailer’s decision to close two South Side stores.

The cold winds on Veterans Day didn’t deter the small group of 30 people from picketing at the South Loop store over what they call “bad neighborhood business” by Target, who recently announced plans to close stores in the Chatham and Morgan Park neighborhoods.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said the Black Friday protest is set to take place at the Target store downtown at 1 S. State St.

“This is not the ending, this is just the beginning because we know how to intensify our protest to keep those stores open,” Rush said. “We are here today on Veterans Day, but we are also looking toward Black Friday.”

Rush is also urging residents to boycott spending money at all Targets until the Minneapolis-based company rescinds its decision to close the two stores.

He rebuffs the notion that the stores are underperforming, as Target has said. But if they are, Rush said it is because Target has “ghettoized” their community stores.

“We are still supporting Target even though Target has failed in its management of those stores,” Rush said. “If you go into those stores the shelves are half empty… They need to get their management system in order. It is not the fault of the community, it’s their fault.”

Chatham-native Donna Shirley, 48, is a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Gulf War said it was important to show her 12-year-old son what it is like to participate in civil disobedience during a day her service to this country is celebrated.

“Everything focuses around my son. I have to show him that if I don’t think something is right that it is necessary to fight against it,” Shirley said. “He has to learn now so when he gets older he can do the same.”

She wants to lead by example and she was not only able to do that by making an appearance in her Army-fatigue jacket, but also when her son asked to run into Target to buy a bag of chips moments before the rally kicked off.

“I have to make sure that he understands if they don’t want to stay in our neighborhood we shouldn’t spend our money in their stores,” Shirley said. “He learned that lesson today, we’ll get him some chips, but it just won’t be at Target.”

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Denise Mathus, 49, a U.S. Army reserve veteran, said she is worried the elderly that rely on Target’s pharmacy won’t be able fill their prescriptions. She said losing the pharmacies would exacerbate the “pharmacy desert” that already exists on the South Side.

“Target is targeting our community, a predominantly African-American community,” Mathus said. “Target leaving puts us in a destitute-like situation because we are now forced to travel great distances for basic needs.”

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico joined Monday’s rally, saying he often goes to the State Street store but now he will no longer spend his money at any Target.

“Where’s the corporate citizenship of one of the largest stores in America to be mindful of the communities it serves?” Chico said. “I am very mad about what I see as a cavalier attitude of just closing the stores and walking away.”

Chico said the closings are indeed an issue in the mayoral race.

“Where is the fairness and equity of the development in our communities? It starts here,” Chico said.

Mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle also chimed in on the subject more than a week ago in a letter to the Sun-Times’ editors and urged Target to reconsider its decision.

“I am concerned and disheartened by the news about the closure of the Target stores in Chatham and Morgan Park, two communities located on the South Side of Chicago,” Preckwinkle said. “This decision is disappointing and regrettable.”

The two Target stores are scheduled to close Feb. 2, 2019, despite pleas to remain open from community members. The big-box retailer is set to meet with Rush and community leaders Thursday.

Jacqueline DeBuse, a Target spokeswoman, said last week,  “We are now focused on helping Target’s team members transfer to new locations and our goal is to ensure there are no job losses as a result of these closures.”

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.