This weekend, myself and other SAVE THE FROGS! supporters descended upon Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande restaurants in Arlington, VA and Bethesda, MD and educated well over a thousand people about frog extinctions and the multi-million dollar restaurant chain’s deplorable environmental policies. To date, the company has refused to acknowledge the 800+ letters we have sent them regarding their participation in the ecologically-destructive frog legs trade. The company’s environmental policy has been “ignore the problem and it will go away”, but I have no doubt that the company is quickly realizing that they are soon going to have to confront the issue…or face losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues. Here’s my recap of the weekend events:
Friday, July 2 — Arlington, VA
I arrived at 5:30pm with two fellow protesters. Yes…only three of us, but who says a small group of dedicated people can’t make a huge impact? We came bearing flourescent yellow signs and were immediately greeted by the restaurant manager, the property manager and a private security guard the restaurant had hired. I introduced myself, informed them that I was a long-time customer and had received no response from their CEO regarding my concerns and thus we were here to celebrate the 4th of July weekend by exercising our right to free speech, and that if they wanted us to leave, they could simply remove the frog legs from their menus. The property manager then lied to me and told me that her company owned the sidewalk surrounding the restaurant. I let her know that the police department had assured me that it was indeed public property and therefore if she had an issue, she could call the police, which she did.
The police were not in a hurry to arrive so, we stood outside the restaurant’s busy patio area showing the patrons and passersby our signs, and distributing literature about the frog legs trade, and the company’s deplorable environmental policies.
Eventually a policewoman arrives and I explain that we are standing on public property abiding by the law, and she confirms our right to be there. The property manager then lied to the policewoman claiming that her company owned the sidewalk, but the policewoman didn’t budge. The property manager was clearly unhappy at this verdict.
After the policewoman’s partner informed me that he liked what we were doing, we spent the next three hours talking to passersby and deterring potential patrons from entering the restaurant. The restaurant manager (who walked away every time I tried to talk to her) was clearly disturbed by the night’s events, and spent most of the time on her phone.
It didn’t take long to realize that three protesters could easily make ourselves and our cause known to every restaurantgoer and every person walking down the street. Several people informed us that they were about to eat at the restaurant but would instead go elsewhere, and i have no doubt that many of the patron’s will think twice before returning to an Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande restaurant. All in all an enjoyable, productive evening!
Friday, July 3 — Bethesda, MD
This evening there were lots of people out and about: a perfect night to protest in defense of the frogs. The restaurant manager — who had already experienced a Save The Frogs Day protest at his restaurant — approached me before I even got within a block of his restaurant. Apparently, they must have received photos and a warning about me, a good compliment! The manager wasn’t alone; his large counterpart introduced himself as Montgomery County Police (though he was not in uniform!). He showed me a letter from the property manager, and a Google Map with a highlighter on it, which in his mind “proved” that the entire 4 blocks surrounding the restaurant was private property, including all the sidewalks. I told him that anybody can print a Google Map and color it in, and that until he showed me an official document, I’d be walking the street with my bright yellow sign, unless of course he agreed to remove the frog legs from his menus. “Oh by the way, where’s your uniform?” After mis-representing himself as an on-duty police officer, it became apparent that this “policeman” was really just working his night job: private security for Uncle Julio.
They called the police. The policewoman informed me she really liked frogs and what we were doing, and that indeed we were allowed to be here protesting — so long as we remain in motion. In Bethesda apparently, the 1st amendment is only in effect while you walk. No problem; myself and three other SAVE THE FROGS! supporters spent the next few hours walking the crowded sidewalks of Bethesda Row, talking to hundreds of supportive people about frogs and Rio Grande. The restaurant manager took lots of photos of us each time we walked by his establishment. It was quite clear he was having a bad night, and I’m quite certain that he was coming to the full realization that we would indeed be back indefinitely until his company removed frog legs from their menus. And indeed we will be.
Who says protesting can’t be fun?
The mathematics of protests
Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande does not care about the environment, they care only about their profits…so all we have to do is make them lose money until they are forced to remove the frog legs from their menu. If we had only three protesters out front of all 16 Uncle Julio’s restaurants 2 nights per week, 52 weeks a year, and each restaurant lost only $100 each time we were there…the company would lose $166,400 in revenues in a year!!! That’s plenty enough to make them address the issue, so we just have to keep the pressure on!