On Saturday, volunteers manning the Kent County Republican Central Committee booth at the Farmers Market were asked to leave for noncompliance with Gov. Larry Hogan’s July 31 executive order that requires face masks be worn outdoors when social distancing of six feet can not be maintained.
The Market rules also require masks.
The incident has led to the permanent cancellation of political parties at the Farmer’s Market, said Chestertown Farmers Market Manager Julia King. She said there has been an ongoing battle to keep things civil between the Democratic and Republican Committees manning booths at the market. The two committees are often jabbing elbows for prime locations at the market, King said.
“As a result both are competing to get there earlier each Saturday to stakeout their space,” King said.
She said the presence of both parties at the market has always been a “source of contention and negativity” and that it has made many other vendors uncomfortable.
She said she originally approached the GOP booth this Saturday because roughly a half-dozen people were under the booth without masks, in noncompliance with the market rules and the Gov. Larry Hogan’s most recent executive order. She said the booth workers would not comply and began yelling at her. It was then she expelled them from further participation in the market.
She said most farmers markets don’t allow political parties.
“If you go to any farmers market besides Chestertown, you won’t see political parties,” King said.
There was also an issue with some parents about profanity on a Trump sign that read “No More Bullshit,” which many believed was not suited for the public square where families attend.
One market attendee called the Chestertown Police Department when she received a visceral response from the GOP booth when she complained about the profanity.
Tatiana Croissette, the Republican Central Committee Chair, confirmed they had been expelled from the market permanently and offered her deepest apologies for the entire incident. She said she had not noticed the profanity on the signs until it was brought to her attention by onlookers.
She said individuals complained that the banners were “bad for the children.”
She said the Republicans of Kent, a separate group, helps man the booths on Saturday and that it was they who posted the signs. Croissette said the banners belonged to the Republicans of Kent and not the central committee.
Croissette said she arrived after the booth had been set up and she did not notice the profanity.
“I swear to god I didn’t even notice them,” she said in an interview with the Kent Pilot. “ I was busy bringing all of our stuff, someone came over screaming for us to remove the banners and I didn’t understand why.”
Croissette said she didn’t check what had been put up. She said when she approached the Republicans of Kent about the banners, “they were very apologetic.”
“As soon as we realized it we covered one up and took one down,” Croissette said. “I profoundly apologized for [the banners], and had I noticed, I would have taken them down right away.”
She insisted that those not wearing masks were social distancing properly.
A third issue centered around whether the Republican Central Committee was selling merchandise, which is against the rules for nonprofits at the Farmers Market.
“The [Republicans of Kent] do not belong to us and we never ordered the merchandise to begin with,” Croissette said.
She said merchandise was not actually being sold, but they do accept donations to help recover the costs.