Group pickets pro-Walmart developer's D.C. home

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Local,DC,Freeman Klopott

A group of about 25 people protesting Walmart's imminent arrival in the District gathered Thursday night in Woodley Park by picketing the D.C. home of a developer who has publicly said he wants to open stores for the big-box giant in the city.

Walmart announced in November that it is going to open four stores in the District, part of its national plan to expand beyond the rural and suburban markets it has come to dominate. The new urban model calls for smaller stores focusing on grocery items. The company says it plans to open the stores by 2012: two in Northwest, one in Northeast and one in Southeast.

But a group called "Wal-Mart Free D.C." doesn't want it to happen. They say Walmart will drive wages down and raise unemployment by squeezing out locally owned businesses. The group also claims Walmart has stood in the way of the District's statehood by funding the campaigns of conservative congressional candidates.

Thursday night's turnout was a mix of college students and residents. There is no union involvement, although the group is delivering a pro-union message, said one of the protest organizers Jessica Hall, a 26-year-old Ward 5 resident and second-grade teacher at a D.C. charter school.

"We're here because Walmart closes local businesses and the jobs are anti-union," Hall said.

The protesters carried anti-Walmart signs and chanted "Keep D.C. Walmart free!" outside the home of developer Dick Knapp, who does not yet have a deal with the corporate giant.

On Thursday morning, Walmart used D.C. as the backdrop to announcement of a healthier foods initiative the company said was inspired by first lady Michelle Obama's focus on the issue.

Obama attended the news conference and said the initiative has "the potential to transform the marketplace and help Americans put healthier foods on their tables every single day."

fklopott@washingtonexaminer.com

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Freeman Klopott

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner