A panel discussion of issues surrounding the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market emphasized the importance of and legal limitations to freedom of speech Saturday.

The panel, called “Farmers’ Market 2020: Considering Our Options,” was hosted city of Bloomington to review challenges regarding free speech, inclusion and safety during the 2019 market season, and consider options for the market during the 2020 season.

Panelists included Jeannine Bell and Steve Sanders, Indiana University Maurer School of Law professors, and Jane Henegar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. These panelists were on a previous panel regarding the city’s options for the market earlier in the season. Rashall Brackney, chief of police in Charlottesville, Virginia, was also on the panel via video call, representing the Divided Community Project. The Divided Community Project’s Bridge Initiative, operating out of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, has been working with the city of Bloomington since August. The organization’s report regarding the market will be made available later this month.

Questions initially addressed to the panel were collected by public feedback received throughout the market season and other commonly raised questions.

Regarding government limitations and the freedom of speech, initial questions focused on the right to remove vendors from the market based on beliefs, and if hate speech can be regulated.

“I don’t mean to be flippant, but the First Amendment has not changed since July,” Sanders said in one of his first statements.

Hundreds of residents signed a letter in June alleging the owners of Schooner Creek Farm, a vendor at the market, were involved in white supremacist activities. The letter based those allegations on online chat room conversations leaked by left-leaning activist site Unicorn Riot and FBI records of testimony regarding the vandalization of a synagogue in Carmel.

In the July panel, the legal scholars said it would be against the law to remove anyone from vending based on their individual beliefs, or if they had previously engaged in hate speech or used hate speech at the market.

Schooner Creek Farm owner Sarah Dye acknowledged in August that she’d written the posts, but has since said she rejects white supremacy.
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