Protesters Against Starbucks Vegan Milk Prices Shut Down West End

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – A group of protesters took a stand outside Starbucks in the West End on vegan milk Thursday morning.

The street was closed Thursday morning and businesses had to close their doors, including Starbucks.

The protest resulted in three people being cited and one man physically arrested after the protest.

“Man, this was entertainment,” said Wendell Johnson, who was sitting front row at the protest. “Man, they were fast. In a matter of seconds they stopped the entire Starbucks. They just closed it. No one could get in, no one could get out.

More than a dozen Metropolitan Police cars closed off the streets as protesters cemented themselves to make their point.

“Starbucks claims it’s about sustainability,” said PETA’s Tricia Lebkuecher. “However, it still charges customers up to 90 cents extra for non-dairy milks.”

She said the coffee empire’s extra charge over vegan milk harms the planet.

“And according to the Starbucks report, their use of dairy products is their biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” Lebkuecher said.

As with any protest, there was opposition. That came from across the street where Gavin Paradise was holding up a sign that said “soy milk sucks.”

“Listen, there’s nothing better than regular milk,” he said. “At the end of the day, people are going to drink milk, people are going to eat milk, and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Businesses across the street were also affected. Kristen Vandygriff of Hue Hair Studio said that because West End Avenue was closed, customers were diverted to the back.

“It’s been a little crazy, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “We have a full book today. All of our stylists are busy. I mean, this is a great day. It might have been a bit disruptive.”

The protesters planned to stick to Starbucks, literally.

“This gentleman, he is the last man standing,” Johnson said of a cemented protester. “I told PETA workers, when he’s done, they owe him at least six beers because he stood out the longest.”

Metropolitan Police said one protester was taken to hospital due to pain in his foot caused by the cement.

Police said Daniel Bifano, 46, of Michigan intentionally positioned himself in the exit lane of the business, blocking traffic. He refused to comply with repeated requests to vacate the property. He was taken into custody at 12:30 pm He was one of the people wearing rubber boots covered in concrete to hinder efforts to remove him from the property. Bifano is charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Two women, Emily Slayter, 39, and Norma Hernandez, 42, both from Las Vegas, received citations for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. They had also put on concrete-coated rubber boots and were blocking the entrance to Starbucks, but eventually agreed to take off their boots and walk away. Royce Gomez, 33, of New York, who was blocking the exit with Bifano, also agreed to remove his boots and leave the compound. He was issued a misdemeanor citation for disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Starbucks sent WSMV4 a statement in response to the protest:

“We respect the rights of our customers to respectfully express their opinions as long as it does not disrupt our store operations. As for alternative miles; customers can customize any beverage on the menu with a non-dairy milk, including soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk for an additional cost (similar to other beverage customizations, such as espresso or additional syrup). The price varies market by market. Adding a splash of any milk alternative to Brewed Coffee, Iced Coffee, Cold Brew and Americano beverages is offered free of charge.”

PETA members protest the price increase on vegan milk at Starbucks.
PETA members protest the price increase on vegan milk at Starbucks.(Nickie Jennings/WSMV)
Protesters put their feet on cement blocks at the Starbucks protest.
Protesters put their feet on cement blocks at the Starbucks protest.(Nickie Jennings/WSMV)

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