Chalk it up

Boycott battle at Sac Foods Co-op goes graffiti

With a contentious election on the horizon, the battle to remove a schtickle of Israeli products from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op has taken to the sidewalks.

Two Co-op board candidates, both sympathetic to a group pushing a boycott of Israeli products in the name of Palestinian rights, were th e target of anti-endorsements scrawled in blue and pink chalk on the sidewalk this past weekend.

The colorful graffiti outside the store on Alhambra Boulevard and S streets included messages such as “BDS/Peace Action are liars that are harassing our local farms. Support farms and support the Co-op,” and “Cody Potter and Susan Bush are bad for our local farms and co-op.”

Potter and Bush are among five candidates vying for a seat on the seven-member board. The graffiti was removed Saturday by two 70-something Co-op members, says member Maggie Coulter, who was also targeted in the chalk graffiti and is suing the board over its refusal to place a boycott initiative before its 7,000 voting members. By Sunday morning, however, the taggings had returned.

“It’s negative campaigning, it’s right out in front of the store,” she said.

Coulter believes employees of the Co-op may be behind the chalk slogans. General manager Paul Cultrera says he wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, but has no proof to support the allegation.

“Our employees are very upset about what’s going on,” Cultrera said, “because they’re catching the brunt” of customer complaints. He has forbade boycott, divest and sanction supporters, currently operating under the name Sacramento Co-op Owners for Democracy & Human Rights, from tabling outside his store after customers complained of aggressive lobbying tactics.

Coulter says the Co-op’s failure to remove the graffiti from the public sidewalk equates to an “implicit endorsement” of the sentiments, which Cultrera deflects.

“We’ve been told we can’t control the actions of the BDS [protesters] because it’s a public sidewalk, so we can’t control what’s written on that sidewalk. I think it’s a little bit of you reap what you sow,” Cultrera said. “It’s kind of like what they say in Las Vegas: What happens on the sidewalk stays on the sidewalk.”

One of the targeted candidates dismisses the chalked-up controversy.

“People are allowed to write on the sidewalk, as long as it’s legal,” Ross said. “I protect people’s rights to do that, whether it’s against me or not.”