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Purple Shirt Brigade protesters removed from Bloomington farmers market Saturday



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Lesamarie Hacker is lifted onto the sidewalk in her wheelchair by Bloomington police officers Nov. 9 at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market. Hacker, along with four other members of the Purple Shirt Brigade, were given citations for trespassing and protesting with signs at the market. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Five protesters with the Purple Shirt Brigade were escorted out of the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market and issued trespass and disorderly conduct citations by police Saturday morning after holding signs and refusing to leave. 

“I think they should’ve just let us carry our signs and leave instead of having this big and ridiculous to-do that cost the taxpayers money,” said Charles Bonds, one of the protesters who received a citation.

The planned demonstration began with a larger group of the Purple Shirt Brigade protesters wearing purple, holding signs and singing across from the Schooner Creek Farm stand in the middle of the market. 

The five people removed from the market were part of the Purple Shirt Brigade. The group has been protesting Schooner Creek Farm's owner's connection to a white nationalist group.

Rules prevent people from holding signs at the market outside of designated areas, but protesters have been finding other ways to make statements, such as wearing purple clothing and reserving spaces to sing songs with lyrics changed to address the situation.City officials, who would not comment Saturday, asked the group to leave before Bloomington Police Department officers became involved.

Bonds, Forrest Gilmore, Lesamarie Hacker, Ashley Pirani and Tom Westgard were all issued citations. Gilmore, who is the executive director of Shalom Community Center, said he was participating in the protest as a private citizen. 

For months, protesters have been attempting to raise community awareness about the owners of Schooner Creek Farm, Sarah Dye and Doug Mackey, who are connected to the white nationalist group American Identity Movement, formerly known as Identity Evropa.

Police tried to deescalate the situation by pulling Gilmore, who was dressed in an inflatable light purple unicorn costume, to the side and asking the group to leave and put away their signs. However, members of the group were prepared for police to take action against them and planned to stay.

Westgard said the group decided to try getting arrested to make a bigger statement before the market ends for the season in a couple of weeks.

“I think a lot of people are getting the word in a way that they wouldn’t if we hadn’t done this action,” Westgard said.

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