The second annual Free Cone Day leafleting action at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops on Tuesday, April 8, organized by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org), was a great success.
Solidarity activists in at least 12 states (CA, CO, CT, NY, MA, MN, NC, NH, OR, NH, VT, and WA) distributed thousands of leaflets prepared by VTJP on Ben & Jerry’s commercial ties to illegal, Jewish-only settlements.
Additionally, 335 e-mails were sent to the company’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, on April 8, and in the two weeks leading up to FCD, more than 500 messages were e-mailed to him.
Your ice cream is free today – Palestine is not!
VTJP is still compiling reports on this year’s FCD action, and, in due course, we’ll post on our website [www.vtjp.org/icecream] a comprehensive summary of what transpired on April 8.
Here’s a sampling of what we’ve learned so far:
In San Jose, California, nearly 1,100 leaflets were handed out, and one of the activists shared an observation common to those who leafleted everywhere: “Most of the customers were pleasant, and many were interested to hear the information and take a leaflet.”
At least 1,000 more leaflets found their way into the hands of people at four scoop shops in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. There, as in San Jose, most encounters with the public were friendly and, according to one of the activists, “Many were ignorant of the situation in [Israel-Palestine], so it was a wonderful opportunity for education.”
Our compatriots with the New England Palestine Education Network and Veterans for Peace in Manchester, New Hampshire, told us many people are surprised to learn that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is being sold in Israeli settlements. VTJP activists have had the same experience frequently.
In Denver, a student activist was grateful for the opportunity to talk with people in his community about the Ben & Jerry’s campaign and the Israeli occupation generally. He also appreciated the exposure this action generated for the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Colorado.
Members of Upper Hudson Peace Action’s Palestinian Rights Committee leafleted outside a cone shop in Albany, New York, and held a sign that read: “Ben & Jerry’s: Yes in Albany. No in Illegal Israeli Settlements.” They spoke with the shop manager, who was polite, said he knew why they were there, and invited them in for a free cone.
In Portland, Oregon, twelve volunteers from the local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland Palestine Coalition, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, and Americans United for Equal Palestinian Rights passed out hundreds of leaflets and only two were dropped on the ground.
Jewish Voice for Peace activists in Tacoma, Washington, noted that not only were folks “willing to take the info, but the overwhelming majority left with leaflet still in hand!” The action also provided a great opportunity to reach a lot of young people.
In Vermont, there was leafleting at the two scoop shops in Burlington, including the one at the University of Vermont, and at the company’s factory in Waterbury. Members of VTJP’s BDS committee spoke with CEO Jostein Solheim and Rob Michalak, the head of the company’s Global Mission Office, when they dropped in at the scoop shop in downtown Burlington.
The Ben & Jerry’s Campaign is Growing!
The FCD action this year saw many more activists, groups and scoop shops involved. Moreover, since last September, 220 organizations around the world have signed VTJP’s letter [http://www.vtjp.org/icecream/internatletter.php] urging the company to stop doing business with Israeli settlements. We respectfully ask organizations that have not done so to consider adding their names to the letter.
What began as a conversation in 2011 between a small band of activists in Vermont on how to contribute locally to the international BDS movement has grown into something much bigger than we could have imagined, and inspires us to keep organizing and engaging Ben & Jerry’s.
VTJP is one year into this campaign, and there is still much work to be done.