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true true true true true

Parks Board Approves Farmers' Market Rules For 2020

farmer's market

(Seth Tackett, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bloomington’s Board of Park Commissioners approved rules for the 2020 Community Farmers’ Market at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Activists have decried the rules because they say it limits their freedom of speech in favor of Schooner Creek Farm, whose owners have ties to a white supremacist organization.

The board voted 2-1 to adopt the rules after hours of interruptions, yelling and mockery. The proposed rule change was the last of 16 items on Tuesday’s agenda, so activists from the Purple Shirt Brigade and No Space for Hate attempted to prevent the Parks Board from getting to the rules by commenting on every single agenda item beforehand and using their full comment period to do so, even if it meant waiting out the remaining time in complete silence.

About an hour in, Parks Board President Kathleen Mills stopped the meeting.

“I know we’ve got a plan to use up as much time as possible,” she said. “I’ve been a protestor before in various occasions of my life. And so I ask myself whenever people are protesting in this fashion, ‘What’s the goal of it?’ One goal could be to eat up enough time so that we never get to review the Farmers’ Market Rules of Behavior. I suppose that would be a goal; eventually we could have to leave the room, we could schedule another meeting.”

After a five-minute adjournment the board moved to reorder the agenda and discuss the rules.

Thomas Westgard, who was cited last November for protesting in the market, took the podium after.

“You don’t respect rules,” he said. “You want us to respect rules. But when it comes down to the responsibility that you as government officials have, the power you hold, what do you do? Rules go out the window. You don’t care.”

Activists went on to condemn the rules, saying they suppressed activists’ freedom of speech while providing Schooner Creek a base to recruit and spread its identitarian ideology. They also questioned the board's ability to regulate the removal of protestors from the market. 

The rules prohibit the “interruption of commerce” and protesting outside of designated free speech areas: Information Alley and “Plaza oneA,” which is “(defined by the arc of light colored pavers) on the B-Line trail.”

“Picketing, demonstrating, yelling, excessive or unreasonable noise-making, obstructing or hindering the flow of pedestrians or access to a vendor, and other conduct disrupting Market activities” is prohibited, and those found doing so will be asked to move to one of the free speech areas. If the person refuses, the Bloomington Police Department will be contacted and the individual may be subject to arrest.

Board member Israel Herrera was the only dissenting vote. He says he went into the meeting expecting to vote for the rules, but public comment moved him to vote against them.

“I think that the freedom of speech is something important for all citizens,” he says. “And I think we need to hear our citizens about the climate that we live in.”

When asked if they will continue to protest, No Space for Hate and Purple Shirt Brigade activists said they plan to be at the market this summer.

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