Disgruntled activists upset over USDA’s decision to negotiate an agreement to continue the pork checkoff program occupied the Washington, DC, office of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) for about 45 minutes on March 26.
The 100 protesters grabbed, pushed and verbally abused the four NPPC employees present, creating a lot of disruption, says Steven Cohen, NPPC director of communications. They rifled through desks in every office, plastered doors and walls with paper stickers "Stop The Pork Tax" and chanted demands that NPPC Chief Executive Officer Al Tank be handed over. Tank was not in the office at the time of the protest, says Cohen. They attempted to fax a flyer discrediting the NPPC to the organization’s group list.
Cohen says the protesters would not agree to sit down and discuss their concerns and only left after police were called.
NPPC President Barb Determan says, "In today’s society, 100 protesters storming an office is not a simple protest, but a major security threat to our staff. I think this protest is an injustice to pork producers everywhere and should cause great concern for the safety of those working on our behalf."
Although the situation was "very intimidating," no one was physically harmed and no office equipment was damaged, says Cohen. Precautions will be taken against future protests, but he refused to provide details.
Determan adds that NPPC has tried to work with the activists, but that effort is over. "As a pork producer, I have had enough. We are going to stand strong against this attack and focus on the future of the pork checkoff."
USDA’s settlement agreement with NPPC allows the mandatory pork checkoff program to continue with some modifications.
The protesters included members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Minnesota Land Stewardship Project and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. All of these groups are part of the National People’s Action, an umbrella coalition based in Chicago which mounts mostly urban-oriented protests, says Cohen.
The previous night, a group of 300 activists was reported to have protested the pork checkoff ruling outside Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman’s house in Alexandria, VA. She was not home at the time.