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Broadcast Premiere of The Co-Op Wars

October 4, 2021 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

THE CO-OP WARS has its broadcast premiere on TPT Channel 2.   8 pm, Oct. 4. 

The documentary tells the story of the birth of the Twin Cities’ unique food co-op ecosystem and the violent struggle that almost tore it apart. 

Minneapolis, MN (Sept. 20, 2021) – In the midst of an era of social tumult in the Twin Cities, a new film tells the little-known story of an earlier moment of political conflict in the metro area, when young radicals went to war with each other over issues of class, race, and food. THE CO-OP WARS documents the tumultuous early years of the Twin Cities’ natural food co-op movement, when young people radicalized by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War built a thriving alternative economy, only to see it jeopardized by conflicting visions of social change.

THE CO-OP WARS will have its Twin Cities broadcast premiere on Twin Cities Public Television Channel 2 at 8 pm on October 4. The film was directed by Minneapolis filmmaker and ACW member Deacon Warner, produced by cooperative activist and former Minnesotan Erik Esse, and narrated by renowned actor Peter Coyote, known for his work on Ken Burns documentaries such as The Vietnam War.

Many Minnesota residents are unaware of how unique the region’s food cooperative sector is. It’s the largest in the nation, with the Twin Cities alone boasting seventeen locations, tens of thousands of member-owners, and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. It also has a unique history: Soon after an initial period of explosive growth in the early 1970s, the “Co-op Wars” erupted in the Twin Cities, a heated and sometimes violent conflict initiated by a secretive Marxist group calling itself the Co-op Organization or C.O. THE CO-OP WARS tells this story through interviews with the participants and personal film footage and links it to the more recent controversy around the opening of Seward Co-op’s Friendship store in South Minneapolis.

The soundtrack of THE CO-OP WARS is largely made up of songs from Minnesota music legend Willie Murphy. Murphy, who passed away in 2019, was known for his solo work, his band Willie & the Bees, and his collaborations with Bonnie Raitt and Spider John Koerner. A fixture of the West Bank counterculture of the 1970s, Murphy was the headliner at the “Anti- Terrorism Benefit Boogie” for Bryant-Central Co-op after it was attacked during the Co-op Wars.
In addition to appearing in films such as Erin Brockovich and narrating eight documentaries by Ken Burns, Narrator Peter Coyote was also a leader of the 1960s counterculture that birthed the natural foods co-ops. He was one of the founders of The Diggers, an anarchic San Francisco collective known for their street actions involving free food and performance, which helped inspire the Twin Cities hippies who started the first co-ops.

Producer Erik Esse and Director Deacon Warner were inspired to make THE CO-OP WARS out of their shared love of co-ops, history, and documentary filmmaking. Esse is a long-time cooperator who worked at North Country Cooperative Grocery (the first natural foods co-op in the Twin Cities) and as an organizer of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Warner has made many short films that have been screened at festivals around the world, including Peaceful Warriors: On the Road with Vets for Peace. He is a film educator and founder of the youth program at FilmNorth in Minneapolis. Find more information at CoopWars.com.


October 4, 2021
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm