This story was updated at 6:17 p.m. Feb. 18.
After months of protests against Schooner Creek Farm’s ties to white supremacist groups, the business owners filed are suing the city, parks officials and Mayor John Hamilton.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that by allowing different political groups such as No Space for Hate and The Purple Shirt Brigade to protest Schooner Creek Farm, yet asking the vendors to not express their political beliefs, the city has violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the farm’s owners by not treating all groups and people equally.
Hamilton called for community intervention and asked Bloomington residents and groups to stand against bigotry, especially since the government can’t directly intervene in a speech last June.
City spokesperson Yaël Ksander said Tuesday the city doesn’t consider the lawsuit to have merit and the city cannot comment further at this time.
Months of protests have hurt the farm’s business, according to court documents. In the fall, Schooner Creek Farm owners Sarah Dye and Douglas Mackey’s mailbox was splattered in fake blood and their driveway was littered with nails.
Court documents allege Mayor John Hamilton restricted Dye and Mackey’s First Amendment rights by making public statements supporting the protesters at the market, according to court documents.
The documents also state park officials acted against Schooner Creek Farm to better assist protesters by selectively enforcing the time, place and manner restrictions for the market. The documents claim protesters were given special privileges to protest inside the vendor area, which went against the restrictions, and waived the $10 fee required to hand out informational pamphlets at the market, according to court documents.
According to court documents, Marcia Veldman, farmers’ market program coordinator, said she selectively enforces the time, place and manner restrictions to help the Purple Shirt Brigade. The organization frequently protests Schooner Creek Farm and is characterized by purple shirts with the quote “Boycott Schooner Creek Defund White Supremacy” on the back.
The city requested Bloomington Police Department ask Schooner Creek Farm to move from its central location at the market to a side area multiple times. It also asked Schooner Creek Farm to not display any political messages around its booth in a way that people will think the beliefs are endorsed by the market, according to court documents.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include the city's Tuesday comment on the lawsuit.