As I walked past the Ahava stand I noticed there were two burly security guards framing both sides of the small booth and seriously scanning the crowd. It was the only booth with security, and these guys were not welcoming so not a lot of people stopped at it during the ten minutes I watched.
I came back a few hours later and handed out our boycott stickers at the beginning of the Ahava aisle, until eventually the Ahava gal came and started freaking out that I had no right to hand things out and tried to grab my badge. But I was out and down the escalator before she could get me and went to the back of our booth for a while.
Photos by Adam Eidenge
I then approached from another direction and stood in front of the Ahava stand between the two guards and pulled out the banner. The woman who had come at me before started freaking out again. Everyone in the booth got very excited and the two guards asked me to leave, and when I asked why the Ahava woman started grabbing me and my banner, and barking at the guards that they needed to remove me. In the meantime the security guards went after people in the aisle who had a cameras, pulling off their badges, and grabbing their arms and putting hands in front of their cameras. They were very rough with my friend Ariel who had a video camera and with Matthew who was taking stills. The guards seemed more concerned with preventing any documentation of my banner than with the banner itself. Because of all this commotion a crowd started gathering.
The Ahava rep insisted that I was breaking the law and was trespassing. I said I actually have a badge and I have as much a right to be here as you do. She asked where my badge was and I said I had put it in my purse so she couldn’t grab it from me the way she had tried to do earlier. I then said she should be arrested for violating international law and the human rights of the people in the Occupied Territories. She kept coming back to the fact that I was breaking a law, and I kept telling her that she was the one who was breaking the law.
The Ahava security guards and the rep escorted me out of the hall but not out of the convention center; they couldn’t kick me out of the building so the Ahava rep instructed her security detail to call convention security, saying they had been promised I would be removed from the premises. She stayed on me while we were waiting for the building security, and in the meantime I held up our boycott banner the whole time.
Out in the lobby my conversation with the Ahava rep continued. I asked her how it felt to work for a company that was so disrespectful of the Palestinian people. She said she was proud to work for Ahava. When I asked why, she said she was proud of the product, and I said you care more about a product than the rights of people. At this point, a building security guard arrived and dragged me out. I asked him to help the people who had been roughed up by Ahava’s thugs, but he ignored me. I stood outside the convention hall, passing out stickers and holding up the sign. Ariel joined me after she was kicked out, along with Matthew and another friend who had been taking pictures. Then the convention security guy came back, he was nice and promised to get us our badges back and walked with me with my banner across the street over the center’s property line. He thanked me for cooperating. I told him again that my rights, and those of my friends, had not been respected. He apologized and said he would report the aggressive response by Ahava that he felt was extreme.
I was able to stand outside for another twenty minutes. The photographers were able to get their badges back as the head of security apologized for that and said he would make sure everyone was taken care of.
The Natural Products Expo is supposed to be about healthy choices, and respect for people and the environment. Ahava’s bullying response showed how out of place they were at this convention. The next day when Ariel was visiting a friend at a booth across the way, the Ahava rep and her guards recognized her and had her ejected from the hall again.