Cashing in on a Piece of the Occu-pie

It started with Liberatos, the New York–based pizza parlor that began delivering its $15 “OccuPie” to occupiers in nearby Zuccotti Park in October. Then came Big Mario’s, the Seattle pizza company that donated pizzas to protesters and offered 20% discounts on pies ordered for protesters, as reported by CNN Money. Since then, pizza has become the symbolic snack of choice for the Occupy movement worldwide.

But is pizza really the delicatessen of democracy, or simply a marketing ploy for capitalistic pizzaiolos? For Liberatos owner Telly Liberatos, it’s the former. When asked if he supported the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bloomberg quoted him as saying, “I don’t take sides. It was a very slow summer. I’m trying to run my business.”

Piece pizzeria on North Ave

It seems several other pizza purveyors have taken Liberatos’ lead in cashing in on the “occu-pie” marketing campaign. Here in Chicago, Piece pizzeria and Brewery on North Avenue has a poster in their window advertising an event called the Anti-Black-Tie New Year’s Eve Party. The event’s slogan “99% party, 1% formal” seems to poke fun at and capitalize on the Occupy movement more so than actually supporting it.

Street art at North Ave near Milwaukee

Just a few feet down the street, in between Piece and another pizzeria called Santullo’s, is another visual reminder of the link between pizza and the 99%. This time, it comes in the form of stenciled street art depicting Herman Cain, CEO of the Godfather’s pizza franchise, and a potential Republican presidential candidate up until he suspended his campaign in early December. The image, which Pawn Works speculates was done by Ray Noland, depicts a naked Cain clutching a pizza box that reads “$9.99″ and text above it reading “there’s a noose around his neck made of pizza crust.”

Pie-Eyed pizzeria on Chicago Ave

Across the way on Chicago Avenue at Milwaukee, Pie-Eyed Pizzeria seems to be making a genuine attempt at aligning itself with the Occupy movement. Signs pasted on its store windows aren’t using Occupy slogans as marketing campaigns, but purely as fodder for activism.

By far the worst marketing atrocity committed by a piza company appropriating the language of Occupy Wall Street is none other than Pizza Hut, the corporate mega-franchise and subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., the world’s largest restaurant company. In September, Pizza Hut created a facebook fan page ironically titled “Occupy Pizza Hut,” containing posts such as “Like this post if you occupied one chair in Pizza Hut when you started, but now occupy 2 because your ass is full of pizza” and “WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED! Until we get unlimited bread sticks!”

But the pizza and Occupy associations don’t end there. In early December, pizza made the headlines once again when the NYPD reportedly ate pizza intended for Occupy protesters, according to a press release released by the protesters and reported on by the New York Times and Gawker.

In this video from mid-October, Occupy Chicago protesters chant “let the pizza in!” after police allegedly prevented a pizza from being delivered to the encampment.

Even Congress is causing an uproar over pizza, when, in November, they essentially declared it a vegetable because of the serving of veggies in pizza sauce. The Washington Post brings another ingredient into the battleground: “This is not a fight over pizza. It is, instead, a fight about tomato paste.”

Tomato paste, pepperonis, and mozzarella aside, it’s clear that pizza parties might be the most popular political party in America right now, for everyone from the 99% to the 1%. Pizza consumers, please use discretion when deciding where to purchase your next slice of pie.

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