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Farmers' Market Manager Objects to Pride Flags, Then Resigns

Gail Hayden and Dan Floyd
From left: market manager Gail Hayden and vendor Dan Floyd

Gail Hayden of the California Farmers' Market Association had objected to a vendor handing out Pride flags, saying they were too "political."

The Livermore Farmers' Market in Northern California and the organization that ran it have parted ways after a dispute over the distribution of LGBTQ+ Pride flags.

Livermore Pride Executive Director Amy Pannu and farmers' market vendor Dan Floyd of Dan Good Cookies were handing them out June 7 at the market. Gail Hayden, executive director of the California Farmers' Market Association, which was then managing the Livermore market, objected strenuously. A video of the encounter has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube since Livermore Pride posted it Monday.

"You need to go read the rules, read the section about cooperating with market management, and I will suspend you," Hayden told Floyd, as captured in the video.

"I don't even care what the flags are for," she continued. "It has nothing to do with anything. ... My job is to run the market, not to satisfy your political point of view, and you can do your political point of view anytime you want to, you can come stand on this corner another time."

She said she'd run markets where people wanted to protest about a variety of issues, such as abortion and animal cruelty, and the markets are not the place for that. There is a free speech zone just outside the market area.

Floyd and Pannu objected to Hayden's description of the flags as "political," as they thought it indicated she had some hostility to LGBTQ+ people. "Considering that she called passing out the flag a political activity, which it most definitely is not, and it's tied to my identity, it definitely felt like there was some kind of issue there," Floyd, who is gay, told San Francisco TV station KPIX. He also said he understood that only petitions and fliers were forbidden under market rules about political pursuits.

Livermore Pride officials weren't happy about the situation either. "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," said a statement released by the organization. "This incident is not about the existence of rules and regulations, but rather about a targeted verbal attack against LGBTQ+ community members justified by invoking purported rules and regulations. This is not about being 'politically correct,' but rather engaging LGBTQ+ community members with common decency, courtesy, and respect."

But Hayden contended the flags were a safety hazard, as children were using them to have sword fights. "It had nothing to do with the topic of the flag, it had to do with the flag itself and my concerns of the liability of it, when they were handing them out to children and they were fencing with them," she told KPIX.

By Tuesday, her group resigned as manager of the Livermore market, the station reports. The farmers' market will not be held on its next scheduled dates, Thursday and Sunday, and Livermore Downtown Inc. is looking for new management.

Floyd said he is still shaken about the incident and doesn't plan to return to the market. He'll keep his store open on Sundays instead, he told KPIX. Business has actually increased since the market incident, with local residents showing support. And city officials have issued a statement asserting their support for diversity and inclusion and noting that the Pride flag flies over City Hall.

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