Australians In Chicago to Protest McDonald's

Group opposes 24-hour McDonald's in its small Australian town of Tecoma

By Lisa Balde
|  Monday, Sep 16, 2013  |  Updated 10:50 AM EDT
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A group of Aussies is taking its beef with McDonald's to the burger chain's Illinois home base.

At issue is a proposed 24-hour store with a drive-thru in the small Australian town of Tecoma, across from a local school. As of Friday more than 93,000 supporters signed a change.org petition opposing the opening, and the petition's author, Garry Muratore, led a small group to Chicago this weekend to personally deliver the signatures.

"If McDonald's wins this fight, it'll break our hearts," Muratore wrote in the petition. "This town, our special part of the world that we think deserves protecting, would be irreversibly changed."

Muratore argues the store's litter and traffic not only would compromise the beauty of the town, which sits near a national park and the Dandenong Ranges, but it also would send a bad message to Tecoma's kids.

"Every day, kids as young as five years old would need to walk past a giant advertisement for junk food just to go to school," he said, pointing out a survey of the town showed 9 of every 10 people in the area oppose the opening.

The fight has been two years in the making, going back to 2011 when the company filed a proposal to open the store. Since then Muratore's group has grabbed national attention for its protests and calls for action with messages like "No Maccas in Tecoma" and "Burger Off."

The group launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise the money for its travel to Oak Brook. They even took out a half-page ad in the Chicago Tribune preceding the visit.

McDonald's said it's been vocal with the Australian community about its plans and said it respects the group's right to peacefully express its views in Chicago. 

"McDonald’s Australia has followed due process every step of the way to build a family restaurant on a highway that already houses a number of food and service outlets. The area is appropriately zoned and we have an approved planning permit."

A spokesperson said in a statement that the new restaurant will bring 100 jobs to the town and will be owned and operated "by a licensee who is a member of the broader community, who has the best interest of his neighbors in mind. In fact, he already owns McDonald’s restaurants in neighboring communities."

Muratore's group isn't deterred. They plan to "tell McDonald’s US Corporate Headquarters in Chicago, including the McDonald’s Board and major investors, that the bullying and intimidation needs to stop."

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