The right-wing antigay hate group Faith2Action scheduled a nationwide protest of Target this weekend at store locations across the U.S. Janet Porter, the president of Faith2Action, claimed that the goal of the Saturday event, known as Don’t Target Our Daughters Day, was to “bankrupt the bullies at Target.”
The company plans to hold its annual shareholders meeting Wednesday, and the goal of the protest was to scare its board into repeal of its trans-inclusive restroom policy. Faith2Action claims that since Target announced on April 19 that it would be allowing transgender patrons and staff to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, the popular big box chain has lost $10 million in stock value.
But how successful was the group’s protest? Groups like Faith2Action and the American Family Association estimated that “a million protesters” would show up to picket Target, according to The Jackson Sun of Jackson, Tenn.
That number matches a widely circulated petition from the AFA against the store’s trans-affirming policy; posted to the group’s website, the pledge allegedly stands at 1.3 million signatures. But those numbers are likely inflated, as ThinkProgress reported: The site allows users the petition to sign multiple times, so long as they use different email addresses.
A much smaller number of objectors showed up on Saturday, with just a handful of news outlets reporting an anti-trans contingent outside their local Target. Locations included Jackson, Tenn; Temple, Texas; Mansfield, Ohio; Parma, Ohio; Ontario, Ohio; Brentwood, Mo. and Idaho Falls, Idaho. There was another event scheduled in Lubbock, Texas, but no one was in attendance, as local radio station FMX reports. The station called the event a “bust.”
Most of these gatherings were modest, according to news reports. Both the Ontario and the Mansfield protests numbered just 30 picketers in total, while the Parma protest was more successful — 50 showed up. Those totals are far below initial projections.
Many of those who did come out against the Target protest Saturday did so for faith-based reasons. Ken Masat, the minister at Temple’s Covenant Christian Church, told Tyler, Texas, TV station KLTV, “We think this has got to stop, and encourage people to go shop somewhere else besides Target as long as they are going to continue this un-Christian, unbiblical policy regarding their restrooms.”
One protester in Ontario held a sign that read “Two Sexes, Two Genders, Male and Female, Genesis 1:21.”
Others felt that Target’s policy would be abused by sexual predators. “It turns bathrooms into what I call a predatory potty policy, where men can just hang out in there,” the Center For Marriage Policy’s David Usher told KMOX in St. Louis. “It’s kinda like, we don’t put lambs in with the lions at the zoo.”
Stephanie Rubach, who represents the Missouri chapter of Concerned Women for America, added, “I think this policy is harmful and leaves a very real possibility that those with evil intentions will take advantage of a door that’s been opened to them.”
Despite these assertions, there’s never been a single verified incident of a transgender person attacking someone else in a public restroom in the more than 200 localities across the U.S. that allow affirming restroom access for trans folks. There’s also never been a case of someone pretending to be trans in order to gain access to public restrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity.
Alongside the anti-trans picketers, though, there were equally vocal groups of transgender people and their allies who came out to support the Target policy. The largest counterprotest was in Chicago, where 50 people gathered outside the store’s Uptown location.
“It wasn't that long ago that I was out here protesting Target because they had made some anti-LGBT moves,” local activist June LaTrobe told the Windy City Times. “They have come so far. For the broad trans community, a retail establishment supporting us is fantastic.” The Times also noted that support was sounded by “passing motorists [who] pressed on their horns and gave a thumbs up of solidarity.”
While the LGBT community waved signs that read “Thank You, Target,” longtime advocate Rick Garcia predicted that the voices of inclusion would win the day.
“The people who are targeting Target are the same ones who have called for boycotts of General Mills and Disney,” Garcia told the Times. "How successful were they? Not at all. Target is on target with this issue.”