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To the contrary, Wal-Mart could help ameliorate several problems, chief among them record-high jobless rates east of the Anacostia River (17 percent and 25 percent in Wards 7 and 8, respectively), food deserts and high obesity rates in the eastern half of the city and the flow of $41 million of D.C. money into Maryland and Virginia Wal-Mart stores.

Some of the retailer’s most strident critics stood outside the Giant Food store in Ward 5 on Thursday morning, trying to convince shoppers that Wal-Mart is a job-killing, anti-small business, anti-union corporation whose policies are biased against women.

“My main issue is, [Wal-Mart] doesnt pay women equal wages,” said LeRoy Hall.

“If [Wal-Mart] wants to be in our community, we have a right to dictate terms,” chimed Linda Yahr.

“Send the carpetbaggers back to Arkansas,” said Jerome Peloquin, vice president of the investment group Microventure Support.

Some shoppers had reasonable messages of their own.

When one of the half-dozen or so activists stopped a middle-age woman heading into Giant and told her “Wal-Mart is coming,” the woman replied, “Of course. Why not?”

A gentleman headed to his car with a cartful of groceries paused, looked at the activists, volunteered that he was a native Washingtonian and offered his opinion.

Wal-Mart is building stores where there’s nothing but blight,” he said. “Im sick of looking at the blight. Come on in, Wal-Mart.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at