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From left: Luis Sarmiento, 30, Pedro López, 39, and Natali Rodriguez, 27, come together in alliance with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to boycott Wendy's while playing the ukulele on Norman Field on Thursday afternoon.

 

Alan Alvarez / Alligator Staff

Demonstrators held bright-yellow flags against a blue sky Thursday as about 70 people protested Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program.

The group walked from UF’s Norman Field to the Reitz Union in the Boot the Braids march, which urged consumers to boycott Wendy’s and prodded UF to remove the fast-food chain from campus.

Lucero Ruballos, the UF Chispas secretary who helped organize the march, said Wendy’s has ignored farmworkers’ rights and failed to join the coalition between farmers and companies.

As activists gathered on Norman Field at about 12:30 p.m., they held tomato-shaped protest signs reading phrases like “Respect,” “Dignity” and “Libertad.” Ruballos said the group is concerned with the farms Wendy’s gets their tomatoes from.

Members of UF Chispas, a student organization advocating for the local migrant community, and the non-profit Coalition of Immokalee Workers marched in protest, one of many anti-Wendy’s demonstrations that have occurred at UF in recent years.

The Fair Food Program, of which Wendy’s is not a part, is an agreement between farmers, workers and restaurants to ensure fair, humane wages and working conditions, Ruballos said.

“We want to get Wendy’s off of UF’s contract,” the 20-year-old UF criminology and law sophomore said. “And we want to show Wendy’s that students are getting involved nationwide.”

The Gainesville event began the national Return to Human Rights Tour, which will include protests in 14 cities — their second-to-last stop being Wendy’s Ohio headquarters March 24, Ruballos said.

As protestors reached Turlington Plaza, some bystanders cheered in support, while others lifted their fast-food to-go bags in the air, seemingly to make fun of the group.

Unfazed, the group chanted, “The people, united, will never be defeated,” continuing down Stadium Road before arriving at the Reitz Union.

Cecilia Luna, a UF public relations senior who stood with the protestors, said she wanted to hold the fast-food franchise and UF accountable.

“UF strives to be a top 10 university but continues to profit from Wendy’s,” the 21-year-old said. “You don’t have to be a farmworker to care about these issues.”

Contact Max Chesnes at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @chesnesmax

This article has been updated to reflect that Cecilia Luna is a senior, not a sophomore