Farmers market said vendor met standards to sell items with militia group’s logo, will change policy after i9 Investigation

Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 8:49 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance will change its policy for vendors and products at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market after our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found a vendor selling coasters related to the Three Percenters.

A spokesperson for the group originally said American Sparks and Sawdust were allowed to sell coasters with the militia group’s logo.

Nikki Wilcox, who is a spokesperson for the Economic Alliance, said American Sparks and Sawdust could sell coasters with the logo from the group because it was made in Iowa.

“We checked his products and he is in full compliance with all of our market regulations,” she wrote. “All products sold at the Downtown Farmers Market must be grown, produced, fashioned or transformed in Iowa, and American Sparks and Sawdust meets those standards.”

The logo on the coaster is the same logo used as the Three Percenters, according to the...
The logo on the coaster is the same logo used as the Three Percenters, according to the Anti-Defamation League.(Ethan Stein)

The Three Percenters is considered a terrorist entity in Canada starting June 2021, it was the target of an FBI counterterrorism probe in Minnesota in 2017 and federal prosecutors claim its members tried to kidnap and hold Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hostage in October 2020.

A report for the University of George Washington’s Center for Extremism said 14 people associated with the Three Percenters were charged with attacking the Capitol on January 6th. According to the report published in January 2021, the only groups with more people charged were the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

The Anti-Defamation League describes the group as a militia movement, who want to protect Americans from government tyranny. It said the group has become less active in opposing the federal government in recent years and the group has directed anger towards leftists, Muslims and immigrants.

The Economic Alliance declined an on-camera interview due to scheduling conflicts. However, Executive Director Doug Neumann defended the symbol on the phone.

“It’s a different symbol for different people,” Neumann said.

Anthony Arrington, who lives in Cedar Rapids, said the selling of items with the logo from a group he believes is a hate group displays Cedar Rapids in a negative way.

“That bothers me as a black man to be allowing hate groups to be able to flourish in my community,” he said. “Plain and simple.”

Both Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the symbol has no place in Cedar Rapids in a written statement.

“The City of Cedar Rapids greatly values diversity, equity and inclusion,” Pomeranz said. “Messages of hate are contrary to our City’s vision and values.”

“Hate, and symbols of hate, have no place in Cedar Rapids,” Mayor O’Donnell said. “The Economic Alliance, which manages the Downtown Farmers’ Market, has assured us this will not happen again.”

According to the Economic Alliance’s website, vendors provide must provide an accurate product list to a selection committee to pick vendors. Vendors are asked to give specific descriptions, using flavors of pies as an example.

The Economic Alliance declined to release the application for American Sparks and Sawdust, which sells a number of different woodworking products. According to the Secretary of State’s Office the business based in Harper, Iowa, lists Jesse Gent as the company’s manager.

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team called the company twice, which didn’t respond. The company did make a post on Facebook before we published calling the Three Percenters “patriotic” and the farmers market didn’t know about the product. Screenshots show videos showing the product at the market have been deleted.

Before our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team published our story, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance released a press release related to the items being sold.

The Economic Alliance said it came to an agreement with American Sparks and Sawdust, which it described as a popular and long-time vendor, to not display products with the logo from the Three Percenters. It also claimed there was misinformation being spread related to the situation.

“We want to proactively address false rumors, and to ensure our vendors and community members know how the situation was addressed,” it said. “The Farmers Market remains a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.”

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