(Featured image: Islington AA Group supporters asked shoppers to boycott South African products outside Sainsbury’s in Holloway Road, north London, on 14 June 1986.)
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the AAM campaigned for consumer boycotts until the South African apartheid government agreed to a democratic constitution. One such boycott was of South African goods sold by the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s alongside pickets outside stores.
Below is an issue of the Bath AA Group’s newsletter proposing a programme for local activity in support of the AAM’s Boycott 89 Campaign. It publicised regular pickets of Sainsbury’s and a role-playing workshop for new members to help them deal with ‘unfriendly comments’.
In September 1992, in the aftermath of the massacre at Boipatong, the AAM organised a month of events calling for international support for negotiations for peace and democracy in South Africa. This leaflet below advertised a picket of the head office of Sainsbury’s.
“So one of the first things we did was, and kept up, was standing outside Sainsbury’s in Dalston, telling people not to buy South African food, leafleting, petitioning just to get their attention”
In an interview carried out as part of the ‘Forward to Freedom’ AAM history project in 2013 Simon Korner, Secretary and then Chair of Hackney AA Group from about 1986 to 1994 and member of the London AA Committee, discussed the group’s weekly stall outside Sainsbury’s in Dalston.
“You go out and you send your people out on democratically agreed targets, as it were. So you say ‘right, let’s all do a campaign against Sainsbury’s, or South African food, or against Shell, and these campaigns were sort of centrally agreed by democratic decision, at conference, and then dispersed, diffused, and then you reported back at the next conference to see how they’ve gone… So in that sense, it was a very effective campaign because it wasn’t just a collection of ginger groups doing their own thing, although there was an element of that, but it was pretty, there was a lot of good focus.”
“So one of the first things we did was, and kept up, was standing outside Sainsbury’s in Dalston, telling people not to buy South African food, leafleting, petitioning just to get their attention, and sometimes – I don’t think we did it officially, but sometimes people would, we heard – maybe we did it once – loading up trolleys with South African stuff and then going to the checkout and saying ‘Oh, I’m not going to buy it’ – I can’t remember how we did that, I’m not sure I ever did it actually, because I didn’t want to alienate the staff in the store – there was a bit of a debate about how and if that was a bit childish and a bit alienating – you know, you were trying to win partly also the shop workers as well as the shoppers. But I think that did happen once or twice – I certainly heard about it with other groups, where you’d do this disruptive thing and the whole queue would be brought to a halt, and you’d have a stack of South African wine and fruit in your trolley and then not pay for it. I think you’d put it right through and then not pay for it, something like that. So it was a – but that was a minor one.”
Information, interview and images sourced from: