By Taylor Sisk
Resolution has been found. The Really Really Free Market will resume operations at the Carrboro Town Commons this Saturday, at 2:30 p.m., as previously arranged, and will be allowed to distribute food, thanks to an agreement that a local nonprofit will provide insurance coverage.
â€œWeâ€™re happy that we can help,â€ said Jillian Johnson, co-director of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE) Network, the Durham-based organization that has stepped up to provide the insurance so that Really Really Free Market participants can continue to distribute food to attendees.
The sharing of food at the Free Market without insurance became an issue at last monthâ€™s gathering when town officials â€“ including Town Manager Steve Stewart, Chief of Police Carolyn Hutchinson and at least two members of the Board of Aldermen â€“ were on hand as a uniformed police officer shot video footage of food being passed about. Stewart said at the time that participants had been adequately warned about distributing food without insurance: â€œWe went to extra efforts to advise them of the rules.â€
Board of Alderman Alex Zaffron wrote in an email to his colleagues on the board and to town staff: â€œThese folks have been given every opportunity to meet us halfway â€¦ I suggest we take immediate corrective action, if required.â€
Alderman Dan Coleman has since been in conversation with several members involved in the market, who, Coleman said, â€œdidnâ€™t want to be in a position of conflict with the town over this issue.â€ Coleman said he told these individuals that the most straight-forward approach would be to find an entity that would sponsor the market and provide the insurance.
Enter SURGE. Founded on the UNC campus in 1998, SURGE is a nonprofit network of groups at high schools, colleges and universities that engages in resource development toward progressive political change in North Carolina. SURGE administers a fellowship program that helps student activists work in their own communities.
â€œWeâ€™re happy that we have the capacity to provide the coverage,â€ Johnson said. She said sheâ€™s confident there will be no issues with the food distribution. â€œPeople have been distributing food at the market since its inception and thereâ€™s been no problem.â€
No problems in terms of food-safety issues â€” but the situation was unquestionably in danger of turning to confrontation at this monthâ€™s market, inasmuch as some participants had said they would continue to bring food for distribution.
The Board of Aldermen had a closed session scheduled on their Tuesday night agenda at which time they had planned to discuss an investigation into market activities. That session proved unnecessary after Stewart had received the certificate of insurance earlier that day.
â€œIt appears theyâ€™ve met the requirements,â€ Stewart said Wednesday afternoon.
Coleman said that many among town officials appreciated the spirit of sharing on which the Really Really Free Market is founded and hoped to continue to accommodate its use of the Commons.
Resolving the matter, said Coleman, â€œwas just a matter of keeping the lines of communication open.â€
Coleman said heâ€™s encouraged by the fact that the Really Really Free Market sign thatâ€™s now standing across Main Street from Town Hall indicates that the market begins this Saturday at 2:30. Starting time for the Really Really Free Market had been another point of contention between participants and the town, in that the Carrboro Farmersâ€™ Market isnâ€™t over till noon and some Free Market participants had begun setting up before the Farmersâ€™ Market was cleared out.
Farmersâ€™ Market manager Sheila Neal said, though, that her rapport with Free Market participants has always been positive. â€œIâ€™ve just had to ask them to waitâ€¦. Theyâ€™ve always obliged my requests.
â€œIâ€™ve always found them to be really cooperative.â€
â€œI would hope that this is now settled,â€ said Coleman, â€œand that everyone can put the issue behind them.â€
â€œWeâ€™re optimistic,â€ said Stewart.