What are the Really Free Market Signs made of?

Yesterday I was walking around Carrboro and Chapel Hill checking out the local candidates yards signs. Amongst all the political signs I noticed a sign not advertising a campaign. They were apparently home made signs letting us know about the Really Free Market, a "free event, where all are encouraged to give, receive, and create on their own terms."

I got closer to admire the hand cut spray paint stencil lettering, just as I would with a painting to determine its technique. Then I noticed behind the thinly painted white background was another sign. It was a school board candidate's yard sign repurposed! Knowing this I looked closer at more Really Free Market signs and noticed that other candidates yards signs had been altered this way too.



To Whom It May Concern:

Folks from the informal Really Really Free Market organizing collective in Carrboro apologize to all candidates for office in Carrboro whose current campaign signs are being used to publicize the event. The action did not reflect the consent or intention of many involved with the Market organizing, and was not intended to disrespect individuals or hinder their campaigns. We will not use any more signs made from the signs of current candidates, and in the future will be sure to advertise the market using donated/out-of-date signs. We hope that both the market and the elections are successful and that there will be no conflict between the two.

Nick Shepard & others from the Really Really Free Market organizing collective

[this will also be sent to candidates whose signs were used]

Thank you, Nick. Now can we move on?

As far as I'm concerned we can move on. We've had an honest apology and assurance that it won't happen again. I think it would have been nice if Neal had made the candidates new signs, as a form of restitution, but that's certainly not within Mr. Shephard's power. The only person who can and should do that is Neal.

I do, however, take exception to the idea that this was "blown out of proportion." I take elections, particularly local ones, very seriously. I think Ruby, David, Gerry, And Jackie did an excellent job explaing why this was important.


"but I'm pretty sure yard-dart style political signs are a waste of money and effort."

Not so. Part consciously and part unconsciously, I used candidate signs to guage their political savvy, their level of support/funding, the organizational strength of their campaign, their common sense (based partly on location), and either a short message or image to associate with them. I'm sure some of those assumptions were wrong and some were right, but they were all incorporated into my perspective of that candidate. Not by any means the only or even a significant part of my determination for Town Council races, but, I will admit to being guilty of what amounts to a high crime on these boards: I don't particularly care about school board races locally and will admit to voting by name recognition and signs that I liked in that race.

Political signs work, at least for some people and on some level.

Now it makes sense.Will someone please give me my signs back or pay me for the ones that are missing?
Also-this has caused all sorts of hard feelings among canidates who think people are taking down each other's signs.
Please replace my signs.
Thank you
JAcquie Gist

finally some news (actually editorial) coverage of the whole mess, citing this thread!


Jacquie, here's the kicker: our "repurposed" signs are history. (Yes, I'm a victim too.) They can't be replaced, nor can they even be counted for purposes of restitution.

What we do have is really, really free evidence of thievery. I have Exhibit #1 in my possession.

Too bad the DTH thinks it's all about property, just like neal.

These yards signs are political speech - a very important part of the democratic electoral process. The opportunity to communicate with voters can't be reimbursed.

Some folks seem to think that stuff should be free but speech shouldn't. :-(

When I retrieved the free market sign I had pounded into the ground, I pulled it apart. Inside was a campaign sign belonging to Randee Haven-O'Donnell. I dropped it by her house today. It can still be used.

Thank you, Jackie, you were most thoughtful. I really appreciate the return of the sign.

Whoever has the rest of the RRFM signs should return them to their original owners. It's not too late for them to be used.

Ah, but why is it political speech? Because candidates put words on a sign, which is in turn property. :-)

Seriously, though, your point is a good one, and I certainly recognize the difference.

Painting over signs with a stencil and a spray can renders them unsuitable for re-use.

I got this email today from a Wake County listserv (school board runoff elections are tomorrow, city elections were decided October 11 here):

"Greetings, all --

If you have extra campaign signs or metal holders AFTER the election tomorrow, please put them to good use by getting them to Roger Ehrlich, our beloved Man with the Peace Van. He and various volunteers cleverly flip the signs inside out and use the unmarked sign for new messages.

If you are going to be at Eleanor Goetee's celebration tomorrow night, you can toss them in the back of my truck and I'll get them to Roger. Or contact him directly at:

Roger Ehrlich
(919) 6696-5995 / 380-8380"

I plan to keep my signs - PLEASE DON'T take them. Thank you, Will.

I'm keeping mine too.

A banner at the bike path entrance advertises Really Really Free Market this Saturday afternoon at Town Commons. It's also mentioned in yesterday's CHN Weekend section.

I have been getting plaintive voicemails from Really, Really Free Market supporters who have a beef with Carrboro policies related to the use of the Town Commons. To date, I have received four messages from different people who did not leave names or phone numbers through which I could contact them to discuss the situation or fully understand their issues.

I believe that some type of accomodation is possible, but unless someone associated with the RRFM makes contact in a way that allows for two-way communication, I cannot help. Anyone who knows how to reach the RRFM collective, please, please ask the people involved to ACTUALLY talk to me or give me some way to discuss the situation with them.

Some suggestion has been made that the RRFM folks are concerned about legal action, but this concern is entirely misplaced. The reason that some town employees may have begun to become concerned about the RRFM is because of the organizers' unwillingness to meet, talk or in any way negotiate about this matter. It is frustrating to those of us who enjoy the RRFM but who have been entrusted with the responsibility of managing the Town Commons.

Anyone who wants to reserve Town Commons or Century Hall has to do so formally. The application reads fairly strictly, as it should with staff oversight required. Is this their beef?

I guess. I think the issue may also be the reservation fee.

What if they call it the Really Really Fee Market?

Whining without leaving a way to be contacted...now THERE is a mature response to conflict. Listen up, Freemarketers--if you want resolution--rather than just kvetching--give the people in power some way to reach you.


Yes exactly, Catherine, even though Puppets are coming at that same time. And at this point we have no confirmation that Radicackalacky is taking responsibility for holding the RRFM that day.

Well, you don't expect them to change their plans just because some group followed the RULES do you? How UNCarrboro...

Hmm, maybe I'll book the Town Commons for my own event on Saturday if no-one has reserved it...

To be clear, the Puppet folks have indeed filed the paperwork.

Mark--I was speaking of the RRFM people. I was certain the Puppet people had filed their paperwork. Now. it may be that the RRFM people have the Puppet's permission to hold their event at the same time...

But if not...what a hassle for the Puppeteers. Which is WHY there is a system for reservations in place. I realize some folks find "rules" repressive--but sometimes they are neccessary.

Melanie, I think Mark was responding to my comment in which I misunderstood that there is indeed a reservation.

I think the puppet people do know about the RRFM as they have advertised their shows as going on "at the really really free market."

FYI, here's more about the puppet thing going on at several venues this weekend: http://orangepolitics.org/2006/08/puppets/


I knew there was more than one puppet extravaganza happening--but I was afraid I would misspell "Radicackalacky"--so I shortened it. We are going to Greenville to take The Boy and his roommate out for dinner--as said Boy just turned 18--so I will miss the puppetry.

So long as the RP folk know that they are sharing space with the RRFM then I don't suppose RP will have a problem...but I see the Town's viewpoint. They want to know who is taking RESPONSIBILITY for the use of the space. (A liability issue?) Hmmm....seems this sort of concern might have a bearing on another issue that is getting a lot of "web-time" on this board...

You are both correct. Puppets have a reservation. RRFM is advertised on the puppeteers' website, but there has been no acknowledgement of any responsibility for the RRFM (despite inquiries about the arrangements).

I think this topic needs a new thread -- there's an item on the next BoA meeting agenda to discuss prohibiting "the advertising of events on town property until such property has been properly reserved and to provide for additional sanctions for violation of the provisions" -- while not explicitly directed at the RRFM, this would certainly affect them, and they are asking people to attend Tuesday's meeting.

They should have been sanctioned back in October for "re-purposing" dozens of campaign signs to advertise an event at Town Commons. We were told at the time that it was the work of one over-zealous volunteer, but I still bristle whenever the RRFM sets up on town property.

Ethan is correct that there is an item on tonight's agenda on the reservation policy. Since I saw the proposed resolution a few days ago, I have been planning to raise a couple of concerns.

The resolution states that "no person may advertise or otherwise invite persons to attend any function or event on town property that is subject to a reservation system... unless the facility has been properly reserved."

I would like to improve this in two ways. First is to make the policy more resident friendly by stipulating that staff will contact anyone placing such an advertisement (assuming contact information is available) to inform them of the reservation policy and tell them how to make a reservation. After all, some folks just may not know about the system. We don't want the procedure to unnecessarily limit the proper utilization of town facilities or to punish those who would be happy to follow the policy if they were aware of it..

Also, I want to remove or change the "otherwise invite" phrase. On the face of it, this would prevent me from emailing Ruby to invite her to a picnic at the Wilson Park shelter. We might be foolish to make such a plan without checking on availability but it would be just as foolish to penalize us for it.

This email to Mark Chilton (sent last thursday night) was sent out to the RRFM listserve where I received it today. It will hopefully clear up some misconceptions people have about the RRFM. Despite Chilton's calls for dialogue, he has not responded to this email.

The RRFM email address is reallyfreemarketnc@riseup.net.


We got your email, forwarded to us by vinci, who i think you've talked with about the
really really free markets. We appreciate your concern and support for the free markets,
and your effort to communicate with folks who have called you with concerns over legal
action against the really really free market. Those phone calls were prompted by flyers
put up around town and hundreds and hundreds of handbills given out at markets which
explained that one past "organizer" (i.e. person who had paid for a permit) had recieved
a threatening letter from Brough Law Firm, which was an action taken by Kokeita Miller,
head of parks and rec.

It is actually not true that free market "organizers" have not met or talked with parks
and rec; we have done this extensively, though this process was obstructed by parks and
rec.'s unwillingness to make any exception for this completely free event. One of the
reasons parks and rec. wanted us to get a permit was so that the commons wouldn't be
doublebooked. On the one occasion that this occured, we contacted the group (La Leche
League) beforehand and arranged to share the space with them. This arrangement was to
the ultimate advantage of both groups. The other reason given was that the permit fee
was needed to pay staff to open the bathrooms. However, we contacted local businesses
that were more than willing to open their bathrooms to free marketeers. It was not until
after being threatened by a law firm with "civil penalties" that attempting such dialogue
with parks and rec. seemed fairly useless and, as always, unnecessary.

This history aside, we are thrilled to hear from you that there in fact is no danger of
legal action against any supposed free market "organizer." We should make a point here,
that there is not really any one group of "organizers" of the really really free markets
in carrboro. at this point dozens upon dozens of people help, and hundreds have helped,
publicize the markets. The markets could not in fact function if it were not for their
very decentralized nature; where would all the stuff come from otherwise? They have
happened monthly since March, unpermitted, and it looks like people have been talking
about having them happen the first saturday of every month on into the future. They are a
carrboro "institution." Not paying for a permit for the markets allows for this
decenentralism to happen, and it also makes logical sense, since there is obviously no
income to the markets.

Not having a permit is also inherent to the spirit of the really really free markets,
which are designed to providing an experience of a world without money, bureaucracy, and
privatized "public" space. This is why Carrboro Town Commons is such a great space for
the events.

Regardless of what action the town takes, the free markets will continue to happen. Even
if one "organizer" tried to call them off, others would continue to come. It seems like
the best option would be for the parks and rec. guidelines to be changed so that public,
free events that do not require the town hall to be opened can use this space without
paying a fee. We would even be willing to work with the town government to draft these

We welcome further dialogue with you about this issue, and invite you to the next free
market this Saturday to talk with the diverse participants of the markets.

- Friends of the Free Markets

I understand that people are still upset about the improper use of campaign signs last October, it was clearly a very disrespectful thing, but I think that it is a bit much to continue having so much anger at a rather diffuse group of people for a mistake that was made last year by what was most likely a small minority of those involved with the market.

I am not trying to defend anyone, but I feel that the demonizing on both sides on this issue is really unproductive. There are serious and complex issues at stake about what a COMMONS means--both ideally and realistically. I agree with Ethan that this deserves a new thread, so that the issue of the use of the Town commons can be discussed without being completely overwritten by personal feelings towards particular people.

If someone wants a new thread, please feel free to submit one at http://OrangePolitics.org/contact/guest-posting I'm not clear on what the thread would be about.

Ruby, how do you reconcile your statement about Eli's comment with your approach to the "dance-in" on private property to protest the management's policy? You earlier wrote:

"I am so thrilled to hear of people taking action on this! The craziest thing is that this attempt to stifle their own customers will only damage the very values (or perception of them) that bring people to Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill's lawn in the first place."

Isn't Carrboro in effect, stifling their citizens with the onerous burden of having to reserve a Town facility?

I regards to Eli's comment above, I don't see why the RRFM objects to making a legitimate reservation for the space that is maintained by and for the community. I considered having my wedding there earlier this year, and I would have been pretty upset to show up on the appointed day and find that the RRFM (or anyone else) had decided to set up shop at the same time.

I really don't understand the logic of statements like this:

Not having a permit is also inherent to the spirit of the really really free markets, which are designed to providing an experience of a world without money, bureaucracy, and privatized “public” space. This is why Carrboro Town Commons is such a great space for the events.

I think that that if it weren't for the Carrboro "bureaucracy" there wouldn't be great shared resources like the Town Commons! Having a reservation and permitting process protects this resource from selfish individuals (I don't mean the RRFM, but private interests in general) so it will be around for generations of Carrborators to come.

I'm wondering if any of the marketeers have ever considered using the space at 116 Old Pittsboro Road in Carrboro (http://grassroots.wikia.com/wiki/Carrboro_Greenspace) where they would clearly not be incumbered by the oppressive Carrboro government.

I don't see how it's related, Fred. The dance-ins will stop as soon as WSM and CMM rescind their (in my opinion, absurd) policy. Will the RRFM do the same?

Why don't you share your own opinion about these issues, Fred?


So should the RRFM hold "Market In's" until the Town rescinds IT'S "absurd policy?" CMM is simply trying to control their space...as is the town. What, substantively, is the difference?

"Not paying for a permit for the markets allows for this
decenentralism to happen, and it also makes logical sense, since there is obviously no income to the markets."

Paying for the permit has really never been the issue. There are plenty of ways that you could end up not having to pay to use the Town Commons, however you continue to pass up the opportunity to have a dialogue on the subject. Why not email me directly so that we can talk about this? Or call me on my cell phone? Mark_Chilton@hotmail.com or 919-636-0371.

The only things that I can't work with are: 1) the refusal to have two-way communication and 2) the refusal to abide by a set of rules. McDonald's and Wendy's would be glad to have a Town Commons where "anything goes." They would set up their hamburger stands within the week. We have a reservation system and the RRFM is no more above using that system than anyone else.

The claim that no one is in charge of the RRFM is absurd. Somehow the dates for the RRFM's are decided upon. Someone puts up the signs that advertise the event. There is a decision making system somewhere and that system should put a delegation forward to negotiate about this matter. Even an autonomous collective can do that. For example, Internationalist Books is also such a collective, yet it manages to file a reservation form when it holds an event at the Century Center.

I have received offers from people (not affiliated with the RRFM) who would like to pay the reservation fees for the RRFM. So, if only someone would file a reservation form with Rec and Parks, the issue would be resolved. But you could not have known that because I haven't had the opportunity to talk to you. And I still can't be sure that you are hearing this message now because I don't know whether you are reading this thread.

Ruby, if you don't see how they are related then we would probably talk (write) pass each other. Mark C makes the point that I would agree with - abiding by a set of rules is not too much to ask.

People have the "right" to protest the CMM's policy and CMM has the "right" to take legal action against those on their property. Carrboro has a right to a usage and reservation policy; RRFM doesn't have to go there if they find the Town's reservation policy onerous ; CMM has a right to a no dancing policy; and people have the right not to shop there if they dislike the policy. Who is the dace-in ultimately going to hurt? Is that OK?

I hope, however, that no one will continue to equate as some have done this dance-in to the sit-ins - doing so is just repugnant (in my opinion).

I haven't paid much attention to this thread but sat next to 2 of the RRFM supporters at the BOA meeting. The folks who spoke ere very respectful and quite elegant. It's kind of sad to hear the frustration of the adults in dealing with this, and it's kind of sad to think that these young idealists are being indoctrinated into the way of bureaucracy as part of their attempt to create a different model of commerce and shared space. My life from the late 1960s and 1970s passed before me tonight. :~)

Terri, they are being asked to fill out a one page form.

I know this isn't an onerous requirement Mark. That wasn't the point. When I was talking with the young man sitting next to me, I asked why they didn't just make the reservation and ask for a waiver of the fee. That's the practical, way-the-world works approach. But I also remember being young and knowing that this is the beginning of the loss of ideals and the entry into the world of bureaucracy. We lose one ideal for the sake of accommodating the rules, and then we lose another. That's how all the 60s war protesters and flower children ended up in Congress and the boardroom.

Terri, what was their response to your question about why they can't fill out a form? And exactly what ideal is being lost by filling out a reservation form? To me, not bothering to follow the process seems to reflect a sense of entitlement that contradicts the whole free market concept as I understand it.

The 2 guys I talked to didn't object to filling out the reservation--but they looked at me like I was completely missing the point of common space. They did adamantly object to paying a registration fee of $100 for a really really free market. I'm not sure if the mayor's promise that someone else was willing to pay had not be understood or whether they object totally on principle, but I didn't see or hear anything last night that smacked of entitlement.

My POINT when I wrote my post last night was one of nostalgia for the idealism of youth. Clearly should have kept those thoughts to myself.

The BOA bent over backwards last night (a little too far, I thought) in reacting to the RRFM's presence. They said many nice things about the organization and its politics, and referred the matter back to town staff. What for?

The Carr Mill dancing flap should not have been mentioned last night, not even in jest. It doesn't pertain.

Of course, express whatever you wish, Terri. I guess I don't understand what you meant when you say we lose one ideal for the sake of accommodating the rules, and then we lose another. Certainly not a big deal though. This discussion has a mtn out of a mole hill quality to it that I have helped build! :)

To my knowledge the issue here was not that the RRFM refused to fill out a reservation form, they just didn't want to pay the fee and they were told that they could not reserve the space if they could not pay.

Also One fundamental mis-understanding I know happened is that people who work on the RRFM were told that it was ok for them to have un-paid events there as long as they ceded the space if another group had made a reservation.. to the best of my knowledge there was one time when another group had reserved the space and the RRFm actually helped that group set up and there was no actual problem.....

I do think the Carr Mill Mall issue has everything to do with the RRFM/Town Commons Issue: they are both about balancing control and management of commons, or public spaces, with the right to freedom of expression and association in spaces not mediated by commerce. I am not aying there are easy answers to give to either of these situations, but i really think this conversation and most of this thread has been unduly shadowed by personal anger/catiness, and not enough discussion of one of the most important yet complex issues facing us today: namely how we re-invigorate democratic engagement, and combat the incessant privatization of EVERYTHING, including eliminating almost all spaces where people can engage with one another outside of commerical spaces. This I would argue has led to increasing individualism and lack of critical debate and been one of the most devstating things to American Democracy.

It would be interesting to think about whether or not there are more dynamic ways to have a respecful and productive use of the commons. Is it possible to think of forms of self-organization and self-management that allow the community and different groups within it to make necessary accomodations..... I am not saying there are not real concerns about making sure the costs of maintaining the commons are covered, nor that there might not be competition over the space, I guess I think it would be worthwhile to see if there are some creative ways we can overcome these obstacles together.

As for McDonalds and Wendy's being able to use the space-- i think that could easily be handled by saying no "for profit" events/activities without special approval......



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