Protesters claim local roots

Suggestions that anti-Whole Foods activists are agitators from outside the community are false, members of the group Whose Foods? Whose Community? The Coalition for an Affordable and Diverse JP told the Gazette.

In an email, Whose Foods member Helen Matthews told the Gazette that 92 percent of the 40 people active in the group are from JP and 32 percent are Hyde Square residents. The rest are from Boston and Somerville.

She also said about half are “Latino, African American or of African descent,” but said that figure is “according to my perception,” not self-description.

Following the arrest of three anti-Whole Foods activists at a meeting at the Curley School earlier this month, claims that the protesters are from outside the neighborhood have popped up official circles.

As the Gazette previously reported, Mayor Thomas Menino jokingly suggested that the commotion at the meeting had been caused by agitators “from Philadelphia, Chicago [or] Washington, D.C.”

And the police report from the meeting makes an unusual reference to the arrestees’ status as Jamaica Plain residents: “It should be noted that all suspects from this event are not from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, but all claim to live in the area currently.”

But the report said, and Matthews confirmed, that all three are JP residents. The three were included in the numbers she gave the Gazette, she said.

Speaking to the Gazette earlier this month, Hyde Square Task Force Executive Director Claudio Martinez said he believes most of the anti-Whole Foods activists are white college students. The Hyde Square Task Force supports Whole Foods, he said.

In general, Whose Foods activists say, their group is a diverse collection of like-minded individuals who live and work in JP.

“It is disappointing not to be acknowledged,” said Whose Food member Brian Squadrille.

“The fact is that Whose Foods is a diverse group of people from the community working to come to consensus. Our ideas and tactics have all been from everybody,” he said.

“A lot of people from the neighborhood come out,” said Whose Foods member Martha Rodriguez. “Some have lived here 25 or 30 years, some are newer residents who have lived here for five years or two or three years.”

Martinez said he is more concerned about institutional expansion by nearby colleges turning JP into a “neighborhood for professionals and students” than the possible gentrifying effect of Whole Foods on the community.

But Rodriguez said she is happy to have “white middle class kids” involved with efforts to oppose the grocery store.

“I know that people view that as a negative thing,” she said.         “I think it is a good thing to have people who are part of the problem care enough to be part of the solution.”

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