SOUTH FORK — Two farm owners in southern Colorado who started asking customers for Black Lives Matter donations have sought legal advice after South Fork officials told them that asking for donations for any organization was not allowed on town property.
Sol Mountain Farm Manager Ike Manobla and his partner started asking for voluntary dollar donations among community members at the South Fork Friday Market, KUSA-TV reported.
“After they ordered something we rang them up, and I asked, ‘Would you like to donate $1 to Black Lives Matter,’” Manobla said, adding that they made $3 that day and sparked a lot of conversations.
Manobla said not everyone in the conservative town appreciated the conversations, adding that the farm was notified by the town that asking for donations was prohibited.
Farm owner Wes O’Rourke then asked the town to show them the policy, so they could better enforce it at their hosted market events.
“Their response was, there is no written policy. And if you choose to argue this point, we will simply remove you, and replace you with someone else,” O’Rourke said, adding that the town later made the new policy formal.
ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said his group was told that a verbal policy had been adopted at a town board work session. Silverstein then said someone from the town came to the next market event handing out flyers announcing that soliciting contributions for causes would not be allowed.
In response, Silverstein said he, Manobla and operations manager and attorney Angela Lee sent a letter to South Fork arguing that the town’s actions represented a threat of retaliation.
“It was a hard decision for us, whether we tell our story and hope to write this wrong, or whether we just stay silent to protect our livelihoods and the like because of all of our vendors too,” Lee said, adding that they all agreed it was “something worth fighting for.”
Sol Mountain Farm and the ACLU said they hope the letter can reverse the town’s new policy.
Town administrator Dan Hicks said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that attorney Gene Farish, who represents the town, received the letter Thursday night.
Hicks said that residents complained in early July that they were being pressured to donate money to Black Lives Matter, and that he then requested that Sol Mountain Farms refrain from soliciting.
“We are a very small town and we do not want to be involved in any political controversy,” Hicks said.