Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Marchers hope to raise awareness about GMOs, even without much downtown business support

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Brian Nordli

March Against Monsanto Las Vegas coordinator Angie Morelli rallies the troops before the protest at Sunset Road and Las Vegas Boulevard on Saturday, May 25, 2013.

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Protestors show off their signs before the Las Vegas March Against Monsanto rally at Sunset Road and Las Vegas Boulevard on Saturday, May 25, 2013. The crowd marched about one mile to the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign to protest genetically modified foods distributed by the multinational corporation.

Joining people in 52 countries and hundreds of cities worldwide, residents concerned about genetically modified foods will hold a protest march Saturday morning in downtown Las Vegas.

Their aim is to raise awareness about modified foods and to convince elected leaders that products made with genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, should be labeled, organizer Angie Morelli said.

Saturday's will be the second anti-GMO march in Las Vegas. The first, in May, drew 2,500 people to Las Vegas Boulevard, temporarily shutting down the Strip and gaining national media coverage.

Morelli isn't sure how many will show up this time. However, she has received about 500 RSVPs from people who say they will attend. Sunday night, she and other volunteers painted protest signs inside Triple B, a club at 6th and Fremont streets, where marchers are expected to meet around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Once gathered outside the club, marchers will hear two to four speakers, Morelli said, before heading to the U.S. District Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The route will take them east two blocks to 8th Street, south two blocks to Bridger Avenue, then west three blocks to the courthouse. They expect to spend 10 minutes there taking a photo before heading north two blocks along Las Vegas Boulevard back to Fremont Street.

"The goal is to create a community event where everybody can get together and share ideas, even recipes for non-GMO meals," Morelli said. "We all have this frustration and we want a way of releasing it and doing something positive about it. That's what this march is all about."

Morelli said she sought but didn’t get support from other downtown businesses, including the Downtown Project, known for promoting community in its $350 million downtown redevelopment effort.

Downtown Project’s website does not mention the march. Emails from Downtown Project employees to march organizers, shared with the Sun, say that while the Downtown Project empathizes with the cause, they don’t want to "be part of a march against another company."

Monsanto, known largely for its genetically modified corn, is considered the main target of protesters, which is why the event is also billed as the “March Against Monsanto.”

"I think this is a case of people wanting us to be all things to all people, which we just cannot be" spokeswoman Kim Schaefer wrote.

Morelli said there is no other event to be held in Las Vegas “more representative of its community.”

“These are grandmothers, mothers, parents, children,” she said. “This fight specifically is targeting all demographics. This is the most community-related event in the city. It isn’t just for people who have a special interest; it’s all of our interests.”

The march does not get mentioned, either, in a freely distributed magazine called Downtown ZEN, which stands for Zappos Employee Newsletter. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a Downtown Project  partner.

However, while not mentioning the anti-GMO march, the magazine does support another community-oriented event, the Walk ‘n’ Roll 4 HIV/AIDS, a walking/biking fundraiser to benefit several Southern Nevada HIV/AIDS organizations.

Walk 'n' Roll is set to register participants at 8 a.m. on Jackie Gaughan Plaza, 600 Fremont St., a half block north of the spot anti-GMO marchers are organizing.

Capt. Shawn Andersen, chief of Metro Police’s Downtown Area Command, said he doesn’t expect any problems during the relatively brief march and the crush of people resulting from both the march and the fundraiser. Then again, he isn’t sure how many will show up.

“When it was snail-mail and phone calls, you had a good idea of how many people would show up for something like this, but now you’re on Facebook and Twitter, and you just never really know,” he said. “You could wind up with 250 people or 3,000.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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