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Dewey Square Market vendors share park with Occupy Boston

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  October 27, 2011 11:29 AM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for

Vendors at the Boston Public Market at Dewey Square set up their stands right at the edge of the Occupy Boston encampment.

As the occupation of a downtown park nears the one-month mark, life goes on around it, but it’s not all business as usual.

It’s been close quarters in Dewey Square since Occupy Boston protesters set up camp in the grassy area of the park, then expanded onto the paved plaza. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy cancelled a food truck festival planned for Oct. 15 due to the presence of the festival, but each Tuesday and Thursday the Boston Public Market at Dewey Square goes on as scheduled, despite a few hiccups.

Shoppers, vendors, and other workers at the market on Tuesday said the protesters had been friendly and accommodating — mostly. Market manager Megan Gibbons, 28, said members of the encampment have made efforts to be cooperative but not everyone who comes to the camp has gotten the message.

“We haven’t been able to do everything the way we normally do it,” Gibbons said, noting that the process of unloading trucks each morning and reloading them at the end of the day was complicated by the presence of so many extra people on the square.

“I will say that having added police at the market has been helpful, especially at the end of the day, when people are trying to get out of here,” Gibbons said.

Protesters did not respond to a request for comment.

Alice Alismé comes to the market with her shopping list each week from her home in Malden, and the protesters have had no effect on her, she said.

“I didn’t even notice the whole Occupy Boston thing” until someone mentioned it to her, said Alismé, 28. “I was just too focused on shopping.”

At the Foxboro Cheese Company table, Barbara McAulliffe, 58, said only a few protesters have bought cheese, but they have been polite and respectful. Still, she said, “It’ll be nice when we get our space back and it just resumes to what it once was.”

Vendor Arthur Keown III, 41, said the protesters had been cooperative and a few had bought food at his stand, but not a significant number. He said some had asked him to donate to the camp’s food tent, but he had declined.

Dan Wadleigh, a grower for Pepperell, Mass.-based Kimball Food Farm, also chose not to donate, and he said he hadn’t seen any protesters buy from his stand. Wadleigh, 54, said the protesters had largely been “quiet and peaceful,” but their presence had caused his customer base to shrink a little. He said a few shoppers had told him the market didn’t feel the same as before.

“It changes the atmosphere down here,” said Wadleigh, who has been selling produce in the market for three years. “It really does.”

At the stand for North Brookfield, Mass.-based Batchelder Hill Farm, Jack Nothardt said he hadn’t noticed a difference in his business, other than the usual post-Labor Day decline. Nothardt and Wadleigh both mentioned a single day that protesters had moved into the center of the plaza for a rally and said it had driven away some business, but that was the only incident.

Nothardt, 55, said he was in sympathy with some — but not all — of the protesters’ beliefs and that he saw a symmetry in their exercise of their First Amendment rights to free speech and the adjacent practice of direct capitalism, with growers and makers selling their goods to consumers face-to-face.

“There are no big corporations over here,” he said with a smile. “My feeling is it’s America and you can protest if you want to, and if I have to deal with a little bit of inconvenience, that’s not a big deal.”

Nothardt was clear, though, that his agreement with the protesters only went so far.

“I think it’d be nice to see some politicians change the way they do things, but I’m not going to go over there [into the camp] and sit with them,” he said.

Less sympathetic was shopper Joanne Daniels-Finegold, who said she had shared some beliefs with the protesters but didn’t appreciate the way they affect the market.

“It’s very unpleasant smelling,” said Daniels-Finegold, who is in her 50s, singling out the smell of urine in one area.

Daniels-Finegold said the vendors pay good money to be in the market and the presence of the protesters doesn’t make it any easier for them to recoup on their investment.

“This isn’t playtime,” she said. “This is work for people, and that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Despite some inconveniences, Gibbons, the market manager, said the Boston Public Market Association was going forward with existing plans to extend this year’s season to the week of Christmas, though the market will be open only from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the past, it has always closed just before Thanksgiving.

“We’re still going forward,” Gibbons said, “and I hope there won’t be any issues.”

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Arthur Keown III sorts finger sweet potatoes at the market on Tuesday.

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