Bikes, Blues and BBQ’s annual rally brought motorcycles, fair food and blues music to Fayetteville, as well as flags, shirts, patches and hats covered in Confederate flags found in the vendor booths on Dickson Street, leading some locals to take action on social media.
Northwest Arkansas locals documented insensitive merchandise being sold during the event on Facebook Sept. 25-28 and reached out to event officials and businesses in an effort to bring awareness to the issue.
Matthew Henriksen, a member of the No Hate NWA 2019 Facebook page, thinks the city and local business owners agree with the page on what a family-friendly, all-inclusive event entails, but that the event creates an environment that makes the insensitivity more accepted, he said.
No Hate NWA is a public Facebook page created in 2017 after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when Northwest Arkansas locals realized that hate symbol merchandise would be sold in Fayetteville during Bikes, Blues and BBQ, page member Nick Robbins said.
Community members want to be a part of the behind-the-scenes process of getting permits and understanding the policies that go with them, Henriksen said.
There was some sort of miscommunication between the local business and the festival on who is responsible for patrolling the booths, Henriksen said.
“We’re taking it to the businesses owners that are profiting,” Henriksen said. “We have meetings set up with city officials and business owners.”
“We are evaluating all public comments on this issue before we make any future approvals,” said Justin Clay, parking manager for the city of Fayetteville.
No Hate NWA called attention to Confederate flag merchandise. Members of the group located and posted about multiple vendors selling problematic merchandise in the lots on or beside Dickson Street staples, such as Fayettechill and George’s Majestic Lounge.
Robbins, thinks that while Confederate flag merchandise was widespread in 2017, the 2018 rally was an improvement, with less of the merchandise on display, he said.
Members of the page do not object to the rally, just the display and sale of Confederate flags and other merchandise featuring hate symbols, Robbins said.
The group’s next steps are to work on pressuring local businesses and Bikes, Blues and BBQ to not allow the sale of Confederate flag memorabilia, Robbins said.
“Trying to get them to enforce the rules they already have would be the next step, or make the rules more clear,” Robbins said.
“We pride ourselves in being a family friendly event, inclusive of all members of the community and in no way condone or accept racism, white supremacy, bigotry, fascism, intolerance or hate speech,” according to Bikes, Blues and BBQ.
Merchandise in the lot next to George’s Majestic Lounge included a Confederate flag shirt reading “if this flag offends you, I’ll help you pack,” Henriksen said.
Other problematic merchandise in the lot included misogynistic and white supremacist paraphernalia, Henriksen said.
2019 is the third year No Hate NWA has tried to spread awareness to the merchandise sold at the event, Robbins.
“This year was kind of a step back from where we were last year,” Robbins said.
Bikes, Blues and BBQ’s 2020 rally will be held from Sept. 23-26, 2020.