The California Farmers Market Association (CFMA) has stepped down as manager of the Livermore Farmers' Market after an argument between its representative and members of Livermore Pride and a local bakery owner earlier this month went viral.
The incident occurred on June 7, when Dan Floyd -- owner of Dan Good Cookies, a vendor at the market -- and Livermore Pride Executive Director Amy Pannu were handing out rainbow flags in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, but CFMA Executive Director Gail Hayden told the duo to stop, saying the practice of distributing flags violated market policy.
Pannu captured the end of the ensuing conversation on video, which then went viral on social media and resulted in calls for boycotting CFMA because of Hayden's actions.
"Based upon the video and statements by Dan and Amy, Livermore Pride contends that the level of verbal escalation exhibited by Ms. Hayden was inordinate given the purported 'offense' she claimed was being made," Livermore Pride officials said in a statement.
"The hostility toward both Dan and Amy over something as simple as a small free flag being handed out optionally to Market consumers suggests that they were targeted because they were representing the LGBTQ+ community. Nothing else explains the outright vitriol and weighted language used in this recording," they added.
Livermore city officials confirmed that CFMA formally resigned its role as Livermore Farmers' Market manager to Livermore Downtown Inc. on Tuesday morning. The market will not be held on Thursday or Sunday while Livermore Downtown Inc. works to find a new market organizer.
Hayden responded to the controversy in a phone interview with the Weekly on Tuesday.
"It's a standing policy. It had nothing to do with sexuality; it has nothing to do with that," Hayden said. "In fact, we have gay employees, we have gay people in our family, we have gay market managers, the consultant was gay. We don't have any problem with gay pride, but we have a problem with flags and it was blown out of proportion and it's very sad now because people are boycotting something that doesn't need to be boycotted."
According to the video (which captured just under three minutes of the conversation), Hayden told Floyd he was violating market rules by passing out the flags and threatened to suspend him until he read the CFMA's rules.
"The mission of the market is not your political point of view," Hayden told Floyd in the video. "The mission of the market is for farmers. And you're in a different rights situation here because you're a non-(agricultural vendor) ... I don't even care what the flags are for, that has nothing to do with anything."
"My job is to run the market, not to satisfy your political point of view," she added, according to the video.
Floyd, in response that day, acknowledged that he had not reviewed the rules Hayden was referring to but did say, "Gail what is actually disturbing to me is how you are treating me right now. I have been very open with CFMA since I came here," according to the video.
Hayden disputes any claim of a lack of inclusion, and instead contends that the issue was one based on liability and protocol.
She told the Weekly that Floyd's use of his space as a platform for Livermore Pride was inappropriate because nonprofit organizations who want to have a presence at the market need to register prior to attending the event. Nonprofits are then placed in a designated area where they can conduct their business; as a part of that registration groups also sign waivers accepting liability for their supplies, she said.
As for the physical flags themselves, Hayden said she witnessed children using the flags as toy swords and was concerned about the sharp points. She claimed that if Floyd had removed the stick and simply distributed the cloth flag part, then the act would have been acceptable at his booth. (She also contended she had once asked the American Legion to stop handing out flags in the past.)
Hayden also claimed that she was the third market official to have approached Floyd's stand to explain the issue, and that Floyd had declined to stop distributing flags -- although Hayden did add that she was unaware of what the two previous officials had said to him.
For his part in the incident, Floyd -- who did not return requests for comment as of press time Tuesday -- was issued a citation by the CFMA for allowing a non-employee to be in his booth, and later stated he would not be attending the Livermore Farmers' Market in the future.
Livermore Pride officials stated that LGBTQ+ identity transcends politics and Hayden's use of words constituted "a targeted verbal attack against LGBTQ+ community members."
"The fact that LGBTQ+ identity is explicitly neither a political association nor choice is a dog-whistle to everyone who rallies around the false notion that being LGBTQ+ is somehow a choice to be exercised only under certain circumstances, when condoned by others, and out of the public eye," they said.
Livermore Pride also contended that Hayden's response to Floyd was not proportional to the alleged offense, further stating that they were no longer convinced that the market was a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
"The Market management could have simply taken their newly contracted partner vendor aside discreetly and advised him of the potential conflict with the policies and encouraged the vendor to review them. At no point during the full encounter, on or off camera, was this request made so simply and without escalation," Pride officials said.
As for the decision to resign as market managers, Hayden said she had received threats of protests, boycotts and even received multiple death threats. These threats, she said, created an environment where CFMA officials felt wouldn't be safe for vendors.
Livermore Downtown, Inc., who had previously contracted with CFMA to manage the market, condemned Hayden's actions, saying they are "appalled by the actions of the executive of CFMA, the market operator for the Livermore Farmers Market."
"Livermore Downtown Inc. believes in equality for all. We stand with our community in supporting and celebrating our LGBTQ+ neighbors. The Livermore Farmers Market will be temporarily suspending operations and the search for an inclusive market operator has begun," The Livermore Downtown Inc. Board of Directors said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a Facebook post, City of Livermore officials added: "The occurrence at the market that led to CFMA's resignation is not reflective of Livermore's values of inclusion and respect.... The City Council believes that a city can best stand against bigotry, intolerance, and hate through leading by example and living our shared community values. This month, the rainbow flag is flying at City Hall as a colorful reminder of how our city is strengthened and enriched by the diversity of its residents, business owners, and students, and we continue to work toward a more inclusive community."