Jul 28, 2014
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Occupy Best Buy

Tolerance of Black Friday campouts has protesters grumbling about a double standard.

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It's that time of year when shoppers set up their tents, make their lists and prepare to spend hours waiting in the cold as part of the orgy of consumerism that is Black Friday.

But this year, it's difficult to ignore the parallels to another American-born—but less corporate-friendly—al fresco movement: Occupy Wall Street.

A Fox40 report Monday about shoppers blissfully camping out in front of Elk Grove's Best Buy store with no interference from authorities had Occupy Sacramento activists crying foul.

"Stay tuned to see if there will be any arrests!!! But I doubt it will happen. People are actually encouraged to come camp out...ugh," wrote an administrator on the Occupy Sacramento Facebook page Tuesday.

Of course, the parallel isn't exact: While Sacramento city officials have cracked down on Occupy campers, Elk Grove .

As for the Best Buy shoppers who had set up nine tents outside as of Tuesday afternoon, city spokesperson Christine Brainerd said they'd be left alone.

"The city does not have an ordinance against camping on private property as long as public safety is not affected, and as long as it does not affect traffic on a public street," Brainerd said.

"If the property became an actual campground, there would be zoning violations," Brainerd added. "But a 24-hour line to enter a store is part of their legal business use."

Shopper Tony Tran, however, said he ran afoul of store employees when he put up a handwritten sign that read "Occupy Best Buy; We are the 99%."

Tran, 18, said the sign was a joke and he hasn't participated in the Occupy movement. Nevertheless, "They said take it down otherwise we would have to take down our tent," he said. Tran complied, tossing the sign in the trash.

Store manager Scott Valentine said he didn't see the sign, but that there was no blanket ban on having signs on line—or much else, as long as shoppers behaved themselves.

"It's just common sense—don't litter, don't drink in public," said Valentine, a Black Friday vet who will work the event for the ninth time this year. (His 16-hour Thanksgiving Day shift will end at 7:00 p.m.)

"You wanna make sure all the employees are safe, the customers are safe, and at the end of the day everybody's fine," he said.

Best Buy will roll in a portable toilet for campers Wednesday, and the Elk Grove Police Department has cruised by periodically to make sure they aren't harassed, Valentine said.

On Thursday, the store will begin handing out vouchers to those in line entitling them to one sale item of their choice. For most of those waiting Tuesday, that seemed to be the 42-inch television on sale for $199.99. The store's doors will open at 12:00 a.m. on Friday.

Juan Carlos Guerrero staked out a spot at the head of the line Sunday evening with a group of  friends from middle school.

"Normally we don't line up this early, but those TVs, people want those TVs," Guerrero said. "As soon as people saw me [waiting], they started coming."

While it's Guerrero's fourth year in line at Best Buy, he said it'll likely be his last.

"I'm just getting too old for it," said the 21-year-old.

The fun will pick up even more at 9:00 p.m. Thursday, campers said, when the store will entertain those waiting in line with a free screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. If that isn't rolling out the welcome mat, we don't know what is.

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