Over the past few months, the City has been collecting feedback about how they can improve the market. Through a FOIA request from a wonderful supporter, we now have all of the comments sent to the City. The City received over 250 comments about the market, and three out of four commenters spoke out against white supremacy and/or in support of our protest. A letter is currently circulating among vendors asking them to support the new rules that ban all protest. Those vendors say their voices are not being heard. But why is the City ignoring customers and residents who say they don’t feel safe? Why hasn’t the city informed these vendors that the customer base does not want to return because of white supremacy?
We feel as though the lack of disclosure from the city to vendors has contributed to the unfounded narrative that protestors are responsible for the downtown in attendance. Linked below is a letter from Rosie Sill, President of the Winter Farmer’s Market and BCFM vendor. Previously, Sill co-penned a guest column in the Herald Times called “Market officials raise concerns about dissolving current city market,” in which she and others spoke out against a private market and presented that argument as though they spoke for all vendors: “Vendors are already a marginalized people, struggling daily to stay afloat in a society that rewards big business at the expense of small family businesses” (linked below).
In the recent letter, Sill claims, “If this policy is not passed and not enforced, it will open the door for any and all protestors to flood the market with their passionate demonstrations, continuing the decline in customer counts due to patrons feeling unsafe and avoiding the controversy…. Ultimately, allowing protesting to continue within our farmers’ market will ruin this gem that our community has grown to love.” There is no evidence to support this, and as we have said, public comments suggest that the problem is not protest but white supremacy. In fact, widespread bans on protest encourage more protest because these bans undermine the First Amendment. The lack of consideration for customers who feel unsafe is also morally unacceptable and bad business plain and simple.
Our community is more resourceful and resilient than she suggests. Alternative opportunities to the market continue to arise, and we encourage vendors and customers to support these opportunities. We also encourage vendors and customers to exercise their voice to condemn white supremacy in our community. Please take a moment to read her letter, and then write us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to send comments to Ms Sill and reassure her that it is not protests, but the City’s failure to respond to white supremacy, that is keeping people away from the market. We will forward your feedback to her. Here is the letter: https://docdro.id/idnXH3h
Sill’s guest column: https://www.hoosiertimes.com/herald_times_online/opinion/columns/guest-column-market-officials-raise-concerns-about-dissolving-current-city/article_3f039946-2b17-11ea-89b6-e3d002d6d144.html
Also, here are some comments from those who wrote about the market that stood out to us:
“White nationalism is not free speech. Their speech is incitement to action of eliminating people like me. It is not protected speech. Remove them from the market.”
“Refuse Schooner Farms from vending at the Farmer’s Market, as Nashville, IN farmers market has, because of their membership in a white supremacy hate group. Inaction about matters that affect the safety of marginalized groups fuels white nationalism. Or worse will lead to militant action by white supremacists, as been witnessed in recent mass shootings.”
“While a peaceful farmer’s market is preferable, we cannot prioritize the negative peace that would result from removing protesters or cancelling the market over positive peace from maintaining our values as a community which welcomes diversity. The farmer’s market must ban Schooner Creek farms unless they renounce their violent ideology and apologize to our town.”