Farmers Market said seller meets standards to sell items with militia group logo, will change policy after i9 investigation
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – The Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Economic Alliance will change its policy regarding vendors and produce at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers Market after our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigation Team found a vendor selling three percenter-related coasters.
A spokesperson for the group originally said American Sparks and Sawdust were licensed to sell coasters bearing the Militia logo.
Nikki Wilcox, who is a spokeswoman for the Economic Alliance, said American Sparks and Sawdust may sell coasters with the group’s logo because they were made in Iowa.
“We have verified his products and he fully complies with all regulations for our market,” she wrote. “All products sold at Downtown Farmers Market must be grown, produced, shaped or processed in Iowa, and American Sparks and Sawdust meets these standards.”
The Three Percenters is considered a terrorist entity in Canada as of June 2021, it was the target of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in Minnesota in 2017 and federal prosecutors say its members attempted to kidnap and hold hostage Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October 2020.
A report from the Center for Extremism at George Washington University says 14 people associated with the Three Percenters have been charged with attacking the Capitol on January 6. According to the report published in January 2021, the only groups with more people charged were the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the group as a militia movement, which wants to protect Americans from government tyranny. He said the group had become less active in its opposition to the federal government in recent years and that the group had directed its anger at leftists, Muslims and immigrants.
The Economic Alliance declined an on-camera interview due to scheduling conflicts. However, executive director Doug Neumann defended the symbol on the phone.
“It’s a different symbol for different people,” Neumann said.
Anthony Arrington, who lives in Cedar Rapids, said selling items bearing the logo of a group he considers a hate group displays Cedar Rapids in a negative light.
“It bothers me as a black man to allow hate groups to thrive in my community,” he said. “Plain and simple.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the symbol has no place in Cedar Rapids in a written statement.
“The City of Cedar Rapids places great importance on diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Pomeranz. “Hate messages are contrary to the vision and values of our City.
“Hate and symbols of hate have no place in Cedar Rapids,” Mayor O’Donnell said. “The Economic Alliance, which runs the downtown farmers’ market, has assured us that this will not happen again.”
According to the Economic Alliance website, vendors must provide an accurate product list to a selection committee to choose vendors. Sellers are encouraged to provide accurate descriptions, using pie flavors as an example.
The Economic Alliance declined to release the application from American Sparks and Sawdust, which sells a number of different millwork products. According to the secretary of state’s office, the Harper, Iowa-based company lists Jesse Gent as a director of the company.
Our KCRG-TV9 i9 investigation team called the company twice, which did not respond. The company made a Facebook post before we published calling the Three Percenters “patriotic” and the Farmers Market was unaware of the product. Screenshots show that videos showing the product in the market have been removed.
Before our KCRG-TV9 i9 investigative team released our story, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance issued a press release regarding the items sold.
The Economic Alliance said it had reached an agreement with American Sparks and Sawdust, which it described as a popular and long-standing supplier, not to display products bearing the Three Percenters logo. He also claimed that misinformation was being spread regarding the situation.
“We want to proactively respond to false rumors and make sure our vendors and community members know how the situation was handled,” he said. “The Farmers’ Market remains a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.”
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