Statement on Mayor Hamilton’s Recommendations

The packet for Thursday’s meeting is up on the city government website and available for download. It includes Mayor Hamilton’s recommendation for the market’s future. We want to highlight certain points in advance of Thursday’s Board of Parks Commissioners meeting at City Council chambers, 4 PM, January 9. Our letter to the city stipulated that “We have no preference as to whether the market remain public or private as long as the white supremacist vendor is removed.” The letter in its entirety can be read here. To clarify the city’s process, we were also told that “the Mayor cannot make [the decision on whether to continue the market], the Board of Parks Commissioners is responsible for making that decision. The letter is Mayor Hamilton weighing in with his preferred outcome.” The Parks Board will hold their vote on Thursday’s special session.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to read the 107 page packet, but we’ve highlighted certain pertinent points.

Status on Schooner Creek Farm

The statement largely retreads many of the claims that we have heard over the course of this season: the City condemns white supremacy, but, in Mayor Hamilton’s words “the city must also respect the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protections, which prohibit government from using its coercive powers in response to the content of individual speech or belief, even those odious to our community.” The City won’t make a statement on whether or not SCF would be welcome to vend in the 2020 season:

 

“I urge that the Parks Board approve and support the continued operation of the Farmers’ Market for the 2020 season, as a city program. We as an administration are proposing adjustments and changes to enhance the safety, success and inclusiveness of the market. We acknowledge that we have a great deal of work to do on the deeper struggle against racism in our community. And we acknowledge also that this is not the time or venue to determine who will be vendors at the 2020 market. That process will follow with staff in the weeks ahead.

 

Anti-fascist activists endeavored to bring this to the attention of the community and the city prior to 2019. Over the past few months, we have provided the city and the community with evidence about the depth of Schooner Creek Farm’s involvement in white supremacist organizations and media such as RediceTV. Further, our reports have made it clear that Dye has played a central role in the recruitment efforts of the American Identity Movement (formerly known as Identity Evropa) and that she maintains close connections with its core leaders. Despite this evidence, and that of vendors who have been harassed and targeted at and outside of the market, it appears that the decision on whether SCF will continue to participate in the market will be deferred until a later time.

Status on Free Speech Concerns

The mayor says, “We will continue to protect free speech in a fairhanded, content-neutral way, while seeking to sustain a vibrant, safe, welcoming, and inclusive market.“ Sadly, the presence of white supremacists is incompatible with these aims. The safety that marginalized people seek is much more important to those individuals and society than the bucolic, nostalgic fantasy of the market painted by some apologists for Schooner Creek Farm. To claim “neutrality” in the face of increasing white supremacist activity is not only naive, it is dangerous. This statement implies a tacit acceptance of potential violence against people of color and those with marginalized identities. N.K. Jemisin states, “Even if the bigots are ‘nice,’ their very presence in the space assaults the marginalized. There is no *nice* way to force people to endure those who would do them harm.”

Moreover, Hamilton’s letter also explains that while the Free Speech of SCF’s proprietors must be respected, protest speech inside the market ought to be regulated. He writes, “The city administration can regulate conduct and can place non-content-based restrictions on speech (such as “time, place and manner” restrictions). We have done both in connection with the market, and will continue to do so, to sustain a vibrant, successful market, protect public safety, and support a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, while respecting the civil rights of all our residents and visitors. Thus we have rules prohibiting political signs or demonstrations in the vending area — regardless of the content of those signs or demonstrations — and encourage them instead in “Information Alley” or other public spaces around the market.” This textbook example of double-speak is yet another instance of the City’s hypocrisy on the First Amendment. Hamilton cannot claim to be “respecting… civil rights” in the same stroke as he explains how the City will abuse time, place, and manner restrictions to make a legitimate boycott less effective. Make no mistake: this is an active assault on Free Speech under the guise of a reasonable restriction.

And it should go without saying that we are not a threat to public safety. We are peaceful protesters conducting a constitutionally protected boycott in a public space. To suggest otherwise — in light of the real threat to public safety from white supremacists — is a gross and harmful mischaracterization.

Status of vendor contracts

There are some promising things in the vendor contract that follow from some of our requests. For instance, the idea that vendors cannot conduct themselves outside of the market in ways that reflect badly on the market would seem to frustrate SCF’s attempts to use their business and the market itself for white supremacist recruitment. There is also stronger language about dishonesty. We also approve of asking vendors to disclose information about their stand assistants. Whether or not these reduce the public safety threat posed by white supremacists remains to be seen.

Action items

We urge the community to show up this Thursday, January 9 at 4pm in Council Chambers at City Hall and continue to urge the city and the board to speak out against white supremacy. Here are our requests:

 

  • Remove the white supremacist vendor from the market
  • Rescind the new regulations on speech and protest in the market.
  • Pass a Resolution condemning white supremacy. 

 

The work of fighting racism involves all of us. No Space for Hate will continue to serve the community. We hope the City will join us in doing the necessary work to protect marginalized groups and lead with their stated values.