City’s farmers’ markets get spared from riots, looting

Staff Writer

BALTIMORE (May 12, 2015) — Destructive rioting that besieged part of the city and gripped the nation over several days late last month largely spared the city’s farmers’ markets, market managers said last week.
Communities saw the opening of the markets as part of the healing process, several managers said, after looters, rioters, media personnel, police and, eventually, the Maryland Army National Guard invaded blocks of northwest Baltimore.
Heavy rioting occurred from April 27-28, mostly in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, in response to the April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who fell into a coma from a spinal injury he sustained in police custody after he was arrested and charged with carrying an illegal switchblade.
An association with the Waverly Main Street business district in north Baltimore asked the 32nd Street Farmers Market to open on the Saturday following the rioting, said Marc Rey, president of the market board. The market’s community escaped violence save for a few roving people who threw rocks at some shop windows, he said.
“There was no violence in the area, and [the association] felt people need the opportunity after quite a tense week to be out and to express their solidarity for each other and the city,” Rey said. “Our attendance last Saturday was probably the highest of the year so far.”
All but two vendors, who expressed concern about rioting, showed up to sell at the market, he said.
The Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar downtown, however, decided to cancel its weekly Sunday opening May 1 out of respect for the state of emergency declared across the city.
The market, which features about 150 vendors, attracts 5,000 to 8,000 visitors a week.
“People were not happy that we were not open last weekend,” said Sandy Lawler, market manager.
Beyond that, she said, it’s been “pretty much business as usual.” The market was scheduled to reopen Sunday, May 10.
The Govanstowne Farmers’ Market at Loyola University — also in north Baltimore — doesn’t open until June 3.
However, it alerted customers on its Facebook page to cleanup efforts in the neighborhood last week.
Some businesses near the market suffered broken windows, and two nearby cell phone stores had their entire inventory stolen, said Marie McSweeney Anderson, market manager.
“A few of our businesses were affected, unfortunately, but most of them are back up and running,” she said.
It’s important vendors and customers understand that most of Baltimore was peaceful throughout the rioting, and the city’s farmers’ markets are safe, Lawler said.
“For the most part, it’s been very peaceful downtown,” she said. “People who don’t live in the city, they just see what’s on television. It’s a whole different ballgame.”