Gap Goader

Mary Bull, 49, was a well-paid high-tech "corporate type" in San Francisco when she got fed up with, in her words, "feathering her own nest." A sixth-generation Californian, she met up with other activists who were fighting big timber and other interests, and she decided to take a break and become one of the activists. This was in 1998. Ever since, she's been one of the leaders of the "Boycott The Gap" movement (information can be found at The folks who despise the giant clothing retailer are taking their show on the road--on a seven-city "Gapatista Road Show" tour from Nov. 10-16, on their way to a protest at the Free Trade Area of the Americas talks to be held in Miami on Nov. 20-21. If everything went according to plan, the gapsucks folks had a big protest yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Tucson Mall, including chanting activists stripping down to their underwear while standing on a tree trunk. (We say "if," because The Weekly's deadline is Tuesday night.) It sounds interesting, and we hope you didn't miss it. In any case, here's a portion of what the energetic, fast-talking Bull had to say about her group's efforts.

Why are you targeting The Gap specifically?

The Gap is the second-largest specialty clothing retailer in the world, and the largest in our country. And they're into all of it--the privatization of public things, such as national parks ... (and) the privatization of public schools. (Gap CEO Don) Fisher was on the board of (Bay Area public broadcaster) KQED, and that's why you now see Saab ads on public TV. Their cotton is grown in Uzbekistan, and pollution runoff from their farms turned the Aral Sea into a polluted puddle. They oppress workers; they ship that cotton to Korea, where they pay workers non-subsistent wages, and then they send it to sweatshops in Indonesia, where ... the conditions are so miserable. ... They're one of the 52 corporations in San Francisco that coerced the government into reducing their business taxes by five-sixths. They're basically just into privatization and the exploitation of workers, and then they take the profits from the sweatshops and buy 250,000 acres of the most beautiful land (in California), which they've been clear-cutting and dousing with herbicides. The company's very into PR, making them sound slick and groovy, but their finger is in every pie.

I understand a tree stump is part of the demonstration.

Yes, it was a tree logged by the Fishers ... near Mendocino (in Northern California). It was a 200-year-old tree, which is young for a redwood, but Mendocino's been so depleted that this baby tree (was one of the bigger ones). ... We begged them to save it, but they said, "Sorry, we're running a business," and they cut down the tree. It was too difficult to move, so they left in there, and we went in and took out a cross-section; we've been taking it all over the country ever since.

Why did you decide to come to Tucson, other than the fact that it's on the way to Miami?

We have an action network of 1,500 organizations and activists around the world, everywhere that there are Gap stores. ... I've never visited Tucson, except in cyberspace, but my understanding is that it is a wonderful town full of progressive people. We discussed going to Phoenix instead, but people kept saying no, that Tucson is a better community for that message.

So what's going to happen, or since this coming out after the protest, what was supposed to have happened?

We start off with a mini teach-in. We'll roll our stump up to the entrance of the mall parking lot; they call malls private property, even though they're open to the public--and in California, they've been ruled as public, but in the rest of the country, that's not quite the case. We'll have our teach-in on top of the stump, and then we will do our strip action, chanting, "We'd rather wear nothing than wear Gap!" Then, we get our 200-foot clothes line. We have Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy clothing on it with letters and numbers that spell out messages. It's very impressive. We also do a lot of 1-on-1 with shoppers and get them to take back their purchases. There's a significant percentage of people who won't want to contribute to misery and environmental destruction.

Are any of the larger chain retailers OK?

Not really, at least that I know of. The Gap is kind of the leader of the pack--well, I guess Wal-Mart is really the leader of the pack--but people should not shop at any of these places. All large corporations have bought into the model that's about destruction and misery. There are lots of alternatives. Go on the Internet and look for "fair trade" or "green" clothing. There are so many things happening now; it's a burgeoning effort.

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