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hi, you are my public defender for a shoplifting case | by ellesmelle
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hi, you are my public defender for a shoplifting case

Ms. Ortiz-


The court had assigned you as my public defender for a case

involving shoplifting at the Whole Foods Market on 4th and Folsom on

Tuesday, 07/06, the first day of deliberations for Oscar Grant-Merserle

shooting. I wanted to write you about this incident prior to calling you,

because I feel that this allows me to give you a more complete picture.



hold that people have the right to eat and to eat well, that access to real

food is not a privilege. I also hold that people should not have to choose

between using their time to generate value (work) and standing in line for

a handout. I regularly obtain, prepare, and distribute good quality food to

people i don't personally know. My practice is known in some circles. I do

not consider myself an activist and do not present myself as such.


This is

not the first time I have had a run-in with WFM. Like many other grocery

chains, WFM fix prices and regularly destroy warehouses full of food in

that endeavour. The state of California is one of the largest produce

exporters in the world, yet, WFM, who still portrays a health food store

image, imports large quantities of produce and other products from

contractors contrary to sustainable practices. They have circumvented the

FTC's challenge to antitrust practices; their dominance in the 'organic'

industry has rendered that term meaningless. These practices are

irresponsible envrionmentally, economically and socially; but aside from

all of the above, their security practices also infringe on civil



From personal experience, I know quite a bit about their loss

prevention practices and security practices and have written and spoken to

people about this. Detention by private security in general often hover on

the edge of false imprisonment and extortion, this is because private

security, unlike the police, does not answer to the public in general,

rather, to those who employ the guards. WFM sells food, not jewelry, nor is

it a bank, yet in the past, they have employed armed guards at some of

their stores.


have also heard of people suffering excessive force at the hands of guards

at WFM.

Their loss prevention department also pursues both criminal

punishment and civil demands. Some people have argued that this is likened

to double jeopardy. I personally don't think this is the case. At any rate,

they want to instill as much fear as possible, to the point of threatening

personal relationships.

The above practices are common across the industry,

but through personal experience, I find that WFM is especially vehement in

these practices.


WFM attempts to maintain a clean healthy image in

conjunction to its security vehemence and socially irresponsible practices.

Wikipedia users have accused the company's employees of erasing information

posted about the company. For me personally, I have posted on their

wikipedia page about the security practices in brief; the information was

erased and stated as 'irrelevant'; I think armed guards guarding food is a

relevant thing to point out and have reposted. This shows me that people

indeed try to obscure facts about the company's practices in public

channels. Also, original articles on their armed guards have been taken off

those websites where they were first posted (which is why I am sending you

an link to an original article.) Finally, the president of WFM

has posted opinionated messages under a pseudonym on public stock message

boards in order to effect the company's stock value. The company exhibits a

complete lack of regard for the interest of the public, yet it still

promotes itself to be 'the healthiest grocery store in America.'


It's more

like the Dorian Gray of American grocery stores.


The day of the violation

was the first day of deliberations for the Oscar Grant- Merserle shooting;

many store around the city had hired uniformed temporary security guards in

preparation for rioting. I entered the WFM on 4th St with the intention to

fill my bag full of items in order to prepare and distribute them. The

employees inside the store approached and told me that I was being watched,

and attempted to stop me from proceeding by removing items from my basket.

I knew full well what I was doing and that I would be caught. There was a

uniformed guard standing by the door. As I leave the store, the guard stops

me on the sidewalk. I spoke loudly that people have the right to eat and

the right to eat well. The manager of the store came to the sidewalk where

the guard and I were standing, he wanted to bring me to the back office. I

insisted that they call the police and that I would not go to their office

without police officers present.


The manager returned inside the store to

call the police. While waiting for the police, I asked the guard if he was

a temp. He said yes. I asked if he was employed by a third party security

company. He said yes. I told him what I had written to you, so he would

know what he was guarding. Later, as I was leaving the store, the guard

apologized to me (and I apologized to him for putting him on the spot.)

Pedestrians began to tell the guard that he probably did not have the

authority to restraint me as he was doing. Others commented that the store

can do whatever they will to me, to which I said that people need to

understand that they have rights.


The police came after some minutes, I

entered the store with the police officers and employees of the WFM store.

I waited with the officers while the store manager and other employees

wrote reports on the incident. The store manager made comments to me about

my character. If the police officers were not present, I am sure there

would be more abuse. This is why I refuse to ever be in the custody of

private security.


I told the police officers that I had done this before

at this exact same store. I have recorded


The police officers

then told me that they can cite me for trespassing. I told the officers

that the store's employees are not thinking about that: they want to

threaten, not enforce their rights.


After 30-45 minutes, the reports were

completed and I left with the officers.


Needless to say, I am not

remourseful for my actions. I want people to see what these businesses

would do to a private person. I did something similar at another WFM

location less than a month after this incident. That particular case has

been assigned to a community court by the DA because the total cost of the

items I took were under . WFM is vehement about pursuing me. I am confident

that the more they try to come after me, the more apparent their



People have the right to eat and to eat real food; this is not the

privilege of the wealthy despite of marketing which portrays this right as

such. People have the right to live without fear. It is imperative that

people learn about their rights and I would do this again and again if it

inspires the public to learn what rights they have and why.


I know this

e-mail is long. Thanks and I will call you next week. Hopefully we can

speak then. Enjoy your labor day weekend.




-elle ko

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Taken on September 2, 2010