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White Supremacy Is Terrorism, Not a Difference of Opinion

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In big cities like Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, a farmers’ market might not be a center of economic and social life. But in Bloomington, Indiana—with a population of 80,000 when Indiana University is in session—the farmers’ market has run for 45 consecutive years, and it’s a big deal.

That puts in perspective the city’s decision to cancel the August 3 and August 10 markets amid rising tension over the presence of a vendor, Sarah Dye, an active member of the American Identity Movement (formerly Identity Evropa). AmIM is a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated white supremacist organization; Dye also has friends in white supremacist circles, which include Brien James, a prominent skinhead who allegedly nearly stomped someone to death for refusing to sieg heil.

Dye denies being a white supremacist and refers to herself as “an identitarian.” According to the SPLC, identitarians want nations that are “culturally and ethnically homogenous within their borders,” and that the identitarian “label is simply a cover for rampant racism and antisemitism.” The goal of the term, according to the SPLC, is to “smuggle white nationalist views into mainstream politics.”

How does an event centered around heirloom tomatoes, improvised folk music, and kids gorging on kettle corn devolve into a source of potential violent conflict? The answer speaks to a nationwide problem local governments and law enforcement have with confronting white supremacy directly, as they do readily with other issues they identify as threats. Instead they claim impotence, citing a misguided belief that the First Amendment ties their hands, until the situation escalates to a crisis point.

The city of Bloomington and Mayor John Hamilton sounded the right notes in their July 29 announcement canceling the market. They condemned Indiana’s permissive gun laws and President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric for creating a dangerous environment. Yet the city, police, and market organizers had been aware since at least 2017 that Dye and co-owner Douglas Mackey were alleged white supremacists who generated at least three reports of harassment and one for a “physical altercation” with a shopper.

As activists and residents raised concerns, officials responded with hand-waving. Kyle Billman of Goldleaf Hydroponics, a long-time market vendor, said the city should at least have, “immediately made a public statement and taken a firm stance that no hate group’s presence will be tolerated at the market or in the city of Bloomington.” Instead, as Bloomingtonian Teal Lynn said, “the city responded via the local paper that they could do nothing because of the First Amendment.” This flawed understanding of First Amendment apparently negated officials’ responsibility to take seriously reports of threats and harassment.

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