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In Solemn Memory
National Homeless Persons Memorial Day
December 21, 2017
Summer of the People Ignites
Sending a message and "dissing" a Disney icon
July 18, 2017 by Tim Houchen
On Friday night July 14, 2017 a spirited crowd gathered near the entrance to Disneyland in the heart of Anaheim's Disney Resort District in protest of Orange County's largest employer.
Summer of the People, a local grass roots movement, converged on the theme park giant to protest the low-wages that Disney pays its' workers.
Nearly 100 protesters held signs and chanted slogans in a planned sleep-out event mocking the theme park additionally for its history of unkind treatment of homeless people camped on sidewalks surrounding the park. Just a week before the protest bus benches
in the immediate area of the entrance to Disneyland were removed further discouraging any homeless presence there. Disney has been a source of complaints to Anaheim officials for years.
Protesters occupied all four street corners at the intersection of Disney Way and Harbor Blvd. grabbing the attention of visiting pedestrians pausing at traffic signals waiting to use crosswalks on return to their hotel rooms. Heavy traffic slowed motorists to a halt at all intersections nearby. Employees of Disneyland drove by the demonstration at shift's end waving and honking their horns in thankful support.
Above the din the loud voice of a heavy-set (but very good-looking) gentleman wearing a Fedora hat paced the protest area barking on a bullhorn calling out for response from Disney representatives.
"Mickey Mouse, we know you are in there. Come out and speak to us. We want to know why you pay your employees poverty wages. We will wait here all night if we have too," he shouted playing into the spectacle as it unfolded in the presence of thousands of visitors who could not avoid being exposed to the message of the protesters.
The event captured interest from local media outlets and was covered nationwide in a front page article in print and online by the Guardian in an article titled "Cinderella is homeless, Ariel ‘can’t afford to live on land’: Disney under fire for pay."
Typically, employees of the theme park earn wages below the poverty level and make less than half wages needed to rent a one bedroom apartment in the area. Many Disney workers have reported living in their cars because they can not afford a place to live. Others are cost-burdened by the expense they pay towards rent meaning that sometimes they pay 65% or even more of their household income on housing while the federal government standard recommends only 30%.
Households, often times families with children, that are cost-burdened frequently face decisions to make sacrifices in healthcare, education and nutrition in order to keep a roof over their heads. These households are at-risk of homelessness in the future.
Summer of the People organizers consist of homeless advocates/activists, concerned members of the community, representatives from community groups and labor unions as well as homeless people themselves. Their mission strikes at the core of the systematic failures that are in part causing increases in the epidemic levels of visible homelessness in Orange County and elsewhere across the nation.
The target of the grass roots movement is large corporations and employers that do not pay living wages and local government that will not create sufficient affordable housing opportunities in proportion to the needs of a growing class of low-income earners.
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