Musical Protesters Fight Mall Sprawl in Seattle Suburb

In the department of creative protest tactics, residents in the Seattle suburb of Bainbridge Island are raising their voices in song to stop a shopping mall developer from building a large Walgreens, and have made a fun crowdsourced music video to promote their boycott campaign

The song, titled "Girl In A Tree," celebrates a daring tree-sitting protest staged on August 18, 2014 by Chiara D'Angelo, a 19 year-old college student raised on the Bainbridge Island, a mostly-rural bedroom suburb a short ferry ride from Seattle. D'Angelo climbed a large Douglas fir tree and erected a platform 40 feet above the ground to block Ohio-based developer the Visconsi Companies from clearcutting 830 trees to build a shopping center anchored by a 30,000 square foot Walgreens and a KeyBank branch. Under police orders, she climbed down after just 36 hours, and the developer began clearcutting the next day. But by then her protest had received widespread media coverage in Seattle and across the country, even as far away as Mexico City. The media attention drew a groundswell of support on this island of just 24,000 people in 8,000 households.
"For two years, this community fought to stop this mall through the planning process, but the process broke down," said songwriter Leif Utne, a neighbor of the Visconsi construction site and organizer of Living Bainbridge, the group behind the Visconsi boycott campaign. "This community has successfully kept out all but a handful of national chain stores, and we didn't want or need this Walgreens," Utne continued. But even after the planning commission recommended unanimously against the project, the City's planning director approved it anyway. "That took the wind out of the sails of a lot of people who just assumed that the Visconsi Mall was was now a done deal. It would be built. At least until Chiara climbed that tree."
The media attention caused a surge in volunteers and online boycott pledges, from roughly 100 pledges before the tree-sit, to nearly 700 today. "We'd like to push that number past 1,000 pledges, so we can show Walgreens that the Visconsi Mall may not be a viable location for them." Utne's goal is to use the song and video, which features images of dozens of people of all ages dancing, holding protest signs, and singing along, to inspire others to get involved and join the pledge campaign. "We want to show Walgreens and Visconsi that we're having more fun than they are."
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