Calls grew Friday for a consumer boycott of Coca-Cola after the mammoth corporation largely stood by as its home state, Georgia, passed one of the biggest crackdowns on voting rights in recent history.
Among several provisions making it more difficult to vote, Georgia’s new law creates stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limits drop boxes, imposes shorter voting hours, and even makes it a crime to offer food or water to citizens waiting to vote.
Coca-Cola, headquartered in Atlanta, offered what critics have called too-measured statements about voting rights and no real action to battle the measure. Some pointed out that the company’s silence means it’s now illegal for a bottle of its own Dasani mineral water to be passed out to voters waiting in long lines.
Among the most consequential calls for a statewide boycott are coming from leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District of Georgia, which includes more than 500 Black churches in the state.
“Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product; then they must speak up when our rights, our lives, and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” presiding Bishop Reginald Jackson told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
At a rally outside the state Capitol on Thursday when the law was signed, Jackson said, “This past summer, Coke and other corporations said they needed to speak out against racism. But they’ve been mighty quiet about this. We’re not going to stand with folk who don’t stand with us.”
Coca-Cola is being “complicit” in its silence, Jackson told The Guardian. He said he expected other civil rights groups to soon join in the calls to boycott.
Some people were also calling for boycotts of all companies headquartered in Georgia, including Home Depot, UPS and Delta, until they take action to safeguard democracy.
Pressure was also mounting for boycotts of the state. The head of the Major League Baseball Players Association told The Boston Globe that members of the union were ready to discuss moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest voter restrictions. There was also pressure to move the PGA’s Masters golf tournament out of Atlanta, Bloomberg reported Friday.
Coca-Cola has come under particular pressure over the voting rights crackdown. Critics held a “die in” earlier this month to protest the company’s lack of action at its Atlanta tourist attraction.
Coca-Cola issued a statement in early March saying that it supported a “balanced approach to the elections bills that have been introduced in the Georgia Legislature” and that they should aim to be “inclusive.”
As boycott calls mounted, the company issued a new statement Friday saying it supports reforms that “maximize voter participation.”
That was hardly enough to assuage critics.