CARRBORO — A group “of “anti-capitalist” activists that briefly took over the site of a proposed CVS drugstore in downtown Carrboro last month returned Saturday and planted herbs along the property fence.
About 50 people gathered for the “Guerilla Gardening” event. Demonstrators decorated the chain link fence and trees and lobbed “seed bombs” made of clay, dirt and wildflower seeds over the fence onto the lawn.
Police charged one person chalking the street with impeding traffic, Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison said.
The demonstration followed a brief February takeover of a building at the site that ended when police warned those inside they would be arrested if they did not leave. That incident followed the takeover of a vacant former car dealership in neighboring Chapel Hill last fall.
Some of Saturday’s demonstrators participated in those events and also in the Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro movement, which did not endorse the building takeovers.
The “Guerilla Gardening” demonstrators said they wanted to make people aware of the CVS plan and the broader influence of corporations in Chapel Hill-Carrboro and beyond.
“There are a lot of people upset about the proposed CVS here, but a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Rob Haith, 40, of Durham, who brought his son Isaac, 8. “There’s no way we can stop everything. We’re just trying to change the conversations. There are alternatives.”
“Are there alternatives that could benefit more people?” asked John Conner, 28, a warehouse worker from Carrboro.
“CVS sells pharmaceuticals at a very high cost,” he said. “The question is can we grow medicinal plants and have health care that (reflects) community values and serves more people? … Can society be arranged in a more effective and egalitarian manner? Can we create community?”
The site at 201 N. Greensboro St. sits across from natural food co-op Weaver Street Market, which owned the property until financial pressures forced it to sell. Co-op worker Geoff Gilson said that’s whom demonstrators should be upset with, not CVS.
Gilson, a member of the Occupy movement, criticized Saturday’s demonstration as “showboating.”
“I oppose CVS, but this does nothing,” he said, adding that some of the protesters own their homes. “I find it rather ironic that people who own property and have homeowners insurance preach that we can’t have private property.”
Two members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen watched Saturday’s demonstration.
Alderman Sammy Slade said he can’t say how he’ll vote when the project comes up for a rezoning next month, but he has concerns the proposed CVS is out of scale with the surrounding mill houses. The new store would replace one in the shopping center across the street that CVS says it has outgrown.
Alderman Dan Coleman said he will oppose the rezoning because the current zoning better serves that part of downtown’s historic character.
Coleman said he is also concerned about growing traffic from other nearby developments and UNC-Chapel Hill’s future Carolina North campus.