About 60 supporters of the Occupy Black Friday movement protested what they called "corporate control of the holidays" Friday outside the Middle Country Road entrance to Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove.
"We feel almost seduced by the call of the corporations telling us to spend, spend, spend, and meanwhile our credit is growing and growing and people's homes are being foreclosed," said Susan Perretti, 58, of Setauket, an organizer and member of the Suffolk Peace Network, an umbrella group of social justice and peace activists. "We are an alternative message to 'Shop 'til you drop.' "
Among the sign carriers and people chanting "We are the 99 percent" were retirees worried about their pensions, Verizon and auto union workers, college students and even a guitarist singing "Which Side Are You On?" They had several messages, from buying gifts from nonprofits to fairness in taxes and wages.
One sign read "401ks = food for Wall Street sharks, stop feeding them." Another said "Embrace communities, not consumption."
Manorville duo Amanda Tomasello, 16, and her mother Alice, 47, have been going to "occupy" protests in Suffolk for several weekends. Instead of big stores this holiday, they'll go to small business.
As the two held their signs up, some drivers honked and others made rude gestures on their way into the mall parking lot.
But the protesters said they hoped shoppers will wonder why economists and others push them to spend more to fuel the economy, why they endure what one activist called the "inconveniences and indignities" of waiting hours for door-buster coupons, only to find that the items are gone.
"The idea is to question Black Friday," said Juan Gallardo, 70, a physicist from Mount Sinai. "Why does the economy depend on the shoulders of the poor, and they have to go to the mall today?"
He acknowledged that not shopping on Black Friday would be hard. After years of being conditioned to do so, he said, he was fighting "withdrawal" symptoms: "Even the most aware people like myself feel the need to consume today."