Closing the Farmers' Market because of Saturday protest is a mistake

Christopher Adams
Sunday April 09, 2017 - 08:06:00 PM

Donald Trump built—or at least put his name on—a fancy golf course not too far from where I grew up in southern California. I am sure that with a little effort on social media I could gather some protesters, and we could block the golf course entrance. I am also sure that the local police would arrest us all if we didn’t disperse. We’d have the right to civil disobedience; the cops would have the right to clear us out.

Whatever we did, you can be sure is that the golf course would still collect its greens fees, and its restaurant and bar would still have customers. But here in Berkeley if Trump supporters want to hold an un-permitted rally in downtown, the City folds up. I don’t know if other downtown businesses will close, but next Saturdays’s Farmers' Market is cancelled because of an un-permitted Trump rally. 

Two dozen vendors mostly selling perishable food are going to lose a day’s income. They can’t save their goods or suddenly get a space at another market. Hundreds of Berkeley citizens will lose the opportunity to get good quality food. Dozens of young and needy residents who pick up sales jobs at the market will lose a day’s wages. 

I am a fervent believer in free speech; I have been sending money to the ACLU for fifty years. I marched as a grad student for Peoples Park and Vietnam. But I’m also the father of someone who helped put herself through school by a job at the New York City farmers market, and I know that for the vendors each market is vitally important. 

The City should not sacrifice my rights and the rights of hundreds of others because of a rally without a permit. What about west of the freeway where most Trump supporters will be arriving in any case? Cordon off a piece of Cesar Chavez Park (a nice irony in the name) and let the protesters mill about in the wind. Not downtown. Not by our YMCA, our Central Library, our Y teen center. Not at the Farmers Market. 

[Editor's note: There's now a good story about this in the East Bay Express: Berkeley Farmers Market Canceled Due To Safety Fears Over Pro-Trump, Alt-Right Rally]