No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor

Five protesters who were arrested at Bloomington’s farmers market on Nov. 9 last year,  will not be prosecuted for their actions, according to a statement issued Wednesday morning by Monroe County’s prosecutor. They had been given summonses for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

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Flanked by two Bloomington police officers on Nov. 9, 2019, after his arrest at the farmers market for a protest against white supremacy, is Forrest Gilmore wearing a purple unicorn costume. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The protest got national attention in part because of the inflatable purple unicorn costume worn by one of the protestors.

In the statement from the prosecutor’s office, Monroe County’s prosecutor, Erika Oliphant, is quoted saying, “My office has evaluated the specific facts and circumstances surrounding these citations, and we have decided that it is appropriate to decline prosecution in this instance.”

The specific facts of the situation included protest activity—holding signs and loud singing inside the market vendor area—directed at the Schooner Creek Farm stand. The owners of Schooner Creek were identified by local activists earlier in the year as having ties to a white supremacist group.

In late July last year, one protestor was arrested for similar activity—holding a sign near the Schooner Creek Farm stand. That protestor was also not prosecuted. Continue reading “No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor”

Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors

At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.

Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”

What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was  suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.

At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.

For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.

Bruce McCallister, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said after meeting with vendors and listening to them, “My takeaway was there are a lot of people really hurting [financially and personally] from this season and a sense of urgency to try and address that before next year.” Continue reading “Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors”