During a farmers market season filled with threats of boycotts and violence, Sarah Dye said Thursday she feels her livelihood and legacy have been damaged by the attacks on Schooner Creek Farm.
“My family has endured a summer-long smear,” Dye said.
She spoke to a crowd of about 30 people at the Grassroots Conservatives meeting Thursday night at the Ellettsville Branch Library.
Dye, who owns Schooner Creek Farm and vends at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market along with her husband Doug Mackey, has faced prolonged criticism since June because of ties to the American Identity Movement, formerly Identity Evropa.
The group is considered to be a white nationalist movement by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
While Dye said she is a member of AIM, she said groups have taken her online statements and messages out of context, though she was not specific about exactly what was wrong.
Dye said she used to be liberal before changing her viewpoints a few years ago. She said she feels some people attacking her on the left might be mad because her ideals have shifted.
“I began to awaken out of the liberal, leftist, mind-control cult,” Dye said.
One major concern, she said, was that the market controversy brought down attendance and profit for the farmers.
“All of the vendors really need help,” Dye said. “We need to save the market.”
Robert Hall, leader of the Grassroots Conservatives, said he thinks the meeting gave Dye a chance to tell her story.
“The other side has just been brutal and misleading these people about her,” Hall said. “I was blown away by what she said. It was very emotional, what she’s going through.”
Since the meeting was closed, the event was mostly made up of Grassroots Conservatives and those with an interest in the group or Dye’s story.
However, leftist activist groups including Btown Antifa, No Space for Hate and the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement posted the event online Thursday afternoon and encouraged people to protest.
Hundreds of phone calls began to flood into the library soon after, said library director Marilyn Wood and communications manager Mandy Hussey.
“They were coming fast and furious to multiple lines,” Wood said.
They said one woman called in multiple times because she was disabled and would not be able to protest at the library. Another angry person said he was calling from Florida.
Until protesters started making them aware, staff members didn’t know the Grassroots Conservatives planned to bring Dye to speak.
The meetings and their content are not endorsed by the library, Wood said, and groups aren’t required to notify anyone about their agenda. Extra security and police were brought in for the event.
“We’re the great democratizer,” Wood said. “Everyone — everyone — is welcome at the library. And when I said everyone that means everyone, so there’s the conflict.”
On a personal level, not everyone feels Dye should be let in to promote her viewpoints.
“I feel disgusted by that,” Hussey, who lives in Bloomington, said. “As a library employee I find it terrible that we can’t just say go away.”
A couple dozen protesters showed up for the event. Most of them were middle and high schoolers who heard about the event because they usually hang out at the library’s teen center after school.
Most of them understood the event to be more about anti-LGBTQ beliefs than alleged racism, so they taped hastily made signs that said “love is love” to their clothes and stood on the street corner outside the library for people to honk.
Along with other adults who filmed Grassroots Conservatives members and gathered outside the meeting room, Lesamarie Hacker from No Space For Hate protested outside with the students.
She had materials geared more toward the issue, with a No Space For Hate T-shirt and a sign that said “My Ability Is To Not Support SCFarm.”
Hacker, who is in a wheelchair and has a hard time speaking because of medical issues, said she wanted to come represent her group because many couldn’t be there.
“If I had a voice, I’d be screaming,” she said.
Once the meeting started, the protesters banged on the window panes next to the door to distract Grassroots Conservatives members. Some members went up to the windows, blocking the protesters or making faces.
At least one man from the Grassroots Conservatives was escorted out of the library for arguing with protesters.
Later, on Facebook, Dye posted she and Mackey walked out of the meeting to find their car covered in what seemed to be fake blood.
Before the Schooner Creek owners saw their car, the Grassroots Conservatives ended its meeting by praying for God to protect Dye and Mackey.
"Lord," one of the members prayed, "we certainly need you right now."