by Julian Aichholz, HoneyColony Original
Globally, we’ve come to a point where corporate abuse of economic and political systems almost isn’t news anymore, but even in this world, McDonald’s finds a way to take it one step further. In the Dandenong Ranges, about two dozen miles outside of Melbourne, Australia, the small, quiet suburb of Tecoma has been turned into a (mostly) nonviolent battleground since 2011. That was the year that the multinational corporation McDonald’s put in an application for a permit to construct a 24-hour location with a drive-through in Tecoma. It would be the first 24-hour franchise the suburb has ever seen, if not for the fact that the Tecoma community doesn’t want a flagship fast-food chain on their main road.
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At first, the residents used by-the-book methods to voice their disinterest: they let their city council representatives know. In a town of about 2,000 residents, over 1,100 wrote to their representatives, listing “concerns relating to traffic, litter, noise, crime, impact on existing local businesses, locality opposite a Primary and Pre School, proximity within 1 kilometre of a National Park, the development not befitting the character of the Hills, the demolition of the historic Hazel Vale Dairy building which currently resides at the proposed site, local amenity issues and the fact that there are no 24 hour fast food outlets with drive-thrus in the entire Dandenong Ranges.” They got the message. The Yarra Ranges Council swiftly and unanimously barred McDonald’s from setting up shop in Tecoma. If the story had ended here in October of 2011, Tecoma would be a shining example of the power of democracy, and people taking responsibility for their well-being. And it wasn’t as if there weren’t plenty of McDonald’s just a short drive away in Melbourne (or the rest of the world, for that matter). But no, Ronald’s McMonster decided to push, and appealed directly to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal, who found the township’s complaints “irrelevant,” and overrode the Yarra Ranges Council’s decision in favor of McDonald’s.
Now, one might propose to just let the franchise open, and then watch it sink with poor attendance and low sales in a place where it is obviously unwelcome, right? Why not let the free market take over where democracy has failed? But doing so would require putting one’s principles—which the Tecoma community voiced so strongly—into the muck, and trying to beat McDonald’s at its own game on Tecoma’s homefield. Instead, Tecoma decided to give democracy another shot, and the protests began. They’ve been protesting ever since. For their 24-hour vigilance, they’ve camped in the dirt and slept on the rooftops of the old buildings at the proposed McDonald’s building site. They’ve spoken with the Australian headquarters of McDonald’s, and raised funds to go to their American headquarters in Chicago. Even the gnomes of their forest have protested. Their story isn’t over. In the last two months, protestors have been injured and the Supreme Court has even barred “the Tecoma 8” from using social media sites to organize protests. But such is the plight of democracy and healthy living. We’ll be lending our support by posting this article on Facebook.
Julian Aichholz is a freelance writer. He enjoys original remixes and graphic novels.