Political activists tussle with Grass Valley market organizers
Organizers of Grass Valley’s Thursday Night Market said their staff members did nothing wrong in a dispute with the occupants of an unauthorized booth at the event that led to police intervention last week.
At the market’s July 25 event, three opponents to proposed California legislation that would add a tax to firearm ammunition were reportedly on hand to dole out literature and garner signatures for a petition, according to the Grass Valley Police Department and the Grass Valley Downtown Association.
The group reportedly erected a table and posters without obtaining a permit from the downtown association, something all vendors and booths are required to do to fall under the organization’s liability insurance, said Grass Valley Police Capt. Rex Marks.
“They are accountable for everyone that is there,” Marks said.
After the political activists disregarded a request to take down their impromptu booth, a downtown association staff member dismantled the unregistered table, said Executive Director Julia Jordan.
“The youngest of the three got really belligerent with a staff member … started to use foul language,” Jordan said.
“There was a lot of shouting and concerns about the fact that they were there and why they were there,” Marks said.
No physical contact was made between association staff and the two individuals who were at the unregistered booth, Marks said.
The third activist, identified as Rancho Murieta resident Chad Towe, was not on the scene during the incident that drew the attention of law enforcement officials, who separated both parties.
No one was cited or arrested, but officers did take information for a report, identifying the involved juvenile as having the same last name as Towe, as well as a 22-year-old Nevada County resident, Seth Nix.
The Union was unable to reach either Towe or Nix Thursday. However, Julie Nix, the latter’s mother, did call The Union Friday and indicated that her son was not involved in the altercation, but was a witness who reported what he saw to the GVPD.
“He had nothing to do with it,” Julie Nix said.
Nix and her husband, David, own Northern Mines Goldworks, a jewelry store located across the street from where the impromptu booth was erected. The Nixes had a booth in front of their store, where the father and son were when the altercation began, said Julie Nix.
“The worker from the downtown association walked by screaming, ‘No, no, no.’ She was the one that got belligerent first, before the kid did,” said David Nix. “The kid was just defending himself.”
The downtown association worker reportedly picked up the activists’ table, threw it on the ground, grabbed their clipboard and took their fliers and tossed them into a trash can, Nix said.
“It was bad, it was embarrassing,” Nix said. “I had customers at my booth that walked away.”
Nix said the incident prompted him to seek police intervention.
“You shouldn’t treat a kid that way,” he said.
The altercation with the activists comes amid the Thursday Night Market’s first year of banning political parties from having booths there.
The market began in 1991 and spent its first five years as a Friday night farmers market in Nevada City.
It was moved to Grass Valley at the request of the merchants and the downtown association and eventually switched to Thursday nights in 2006 in response to businesses’ complaints that it detracted from brick-and-mortar stores, said former organizer Ray Diggins.
After 17 years of coordinating the market, Diggins stepped away this year and the downtown association took over management, making some notable changes along the way, including the event’s duration and its makeup.
Booths can be authorized for a little over $20 per night or $250 for the duration of this year’s 12 weekly markets, which take place from 5-8:30 p.m. through Sept. 26 and feature eight local farmers and two out-of-area farmers to provide tree fruit, exhibits and activities.
Along with an increased emphasis on local farmers and artisans, political parties and a number of nonprofit organizations lost their ability to have booths this year.
“We aren’t sure what we’ll do next year,” Jordan said.
“This year was a trial and we’ll review it to see if we want it next year. You don’t know until you try.”
While political parties don’t have booths anymore, Jordan said, those organizations are free to stroll the market’s downtown public streets and solicit signatures.
“There are some political parties that do come out and walk around, and we don’t discourage it,” Jordan said.
“Anybody who would like to show up, I would appreciate a call, and I can give you the guidelines so you aren’t caught off guard,” she said later.
While last week’s confrontation will likely be discussed at the association’s October membership meeting, Jordan said she doubts any changes are needed.
“None of my staff would do what they were accused of,” Jordan said, referencing a comment Towe made to AM radio station KNCO.
“I believe the committee will probably re-evaluate it, but nothing has been identified as needing change at this time,” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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