BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – After weeks of the Bloomington Farmers’ Market being closed, it is now back open
The temporary closure came after a vendor’s alleged ties to white supremacy sparked protests and threats.
“Things just started to get to a level that we were concerned about in regards to public safety. That went into our decision to take a break for two weeks to regroup and to asset the situation,” said Director of Bloomington’s Parks and Recreation Department Paula McDevitt.
The market was a lot calmer once it reopened compared to two weeks ago, but some of the same concerns were there.
Schooner Creek Farm, the vendor at the center of the farmer’s market controversy, was back.
They’ve been accused of having ties to white supremacy.
“I’m only feet away from them and knowing that makes me completely uncomfortable. I am a minority. If there is someone here affiliated with a hate group, it needs to be reviewed,” said vendor Monica Billman.
We tried speaking to the owner of Schooner Creek Farm, Sarah Dye, but she didn’t want to go on camera.
In a previous interview, she denied any ties to a hate group.
She describes herself as an Identitarian.
Protesters with No Space for Hate showed up to voice their concerns peacefully.
“We have specific designated areas were people can voice their opinions and have those debates and discussions. We have made it very clear to people,” McDevitt said.
No Space for Hate’s founder, Abby Ang, says the market still needs to become a more inclusive space.
“If you are transgender, if you are LGBTQ, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re not from around here or you’re not what people consider to be the face of Bloomington — not white — you should feel welcomed here,” Ang said.
She thinks by the farmer’s market allowing Schooner Creek Farm to still do business, it shows that the city isn’t trying to be more welcoming.
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says Schooner Creek hasn’t violated any rules, and therefore they are allowed to sell at the farmers market.
“I can’t kick people out because of what they believe, whatever that belief is. If they behave in ways that are problematic for the market, if they behave in ways against the rules, or if they behave outside the market in ways that violate the rules, we can impose, but we can’t be the thought police,” Mayor Hamilton said.
He says he won’t tolerate hate in his city.
“It doesn’t mean I can’t say that we are against white supremacy. We are against bigotry and against hate. We believe it has no place in our community, and we all work together to make a community like that,” Mayor Hamilton said.
Mayor Hamilton says he’s asked the parks department to review the vendor rules once the market shuts down for the season in November.
The city did make some safety improvements to the farmer’s market ahead of reopening.
They added security cameras, had street closures and had an increased police presence.