FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — People can buy all sorts of things at Bikes, Blues & BBQ to take home as souvenirs, but attendees found some items controversial and inappropriate for a family-friendly event.
Rita Farhat owns the Bikers Den, a booth selling clothing on Dickson Street during Bikes, Blues & BBQ. Her company sells t-shirts branded with “Black Rifles Matter” in a parody style of the Black Lives Matter movement, ones that contained targeted phrasing at non-English speakers and other controversial sayings.
“Every rally we go to, those are the most sellable ones,” Farhat said. “We count on these shirts to sell, and people grab them like crazy.”
Other vendors touted patches with “White Power” and Nazi-inspired logos. Some members of the community were concerned with the racially-insensitive connotations of these images.
“They’re selling this merchandise at the Bikes Blues and BBQ event in Fayetteville, AR right now and the festival organizers are not doing anything about it. Sick,” tweeted Irvin Camacho, a Springdale community organizer.
Tommy Sisemore, the rally’s executive director, said the scrutinized vendors aren’t a part of Bikes, Blues & BBQ’s jurisdiction. Instead, they rent out private lots and are legally able to sell whatever they want, according to city laws.
“We have those conversations with those property owners, as well, and we had conversations with them asking them to adopt our standards for their vendors,” Sisemore said. “At the end of the day, they own the property, so it’s their decision on whether or not they want that stuff sold on their lots.”
Farhat said the owners of the lot she rented forced her to refrain from displaying about 20 designs that were deemed even more controversial than her aforementioned spread. She said she still custom printed any design on shirts people requested, no matter how derogatory the design was.
“I’ll show it to them in the bin,” Farhat said. “I’ll tell them, ‘I can print it for you, but I cannot put it up [to display].'”
Sisemore said he can’t do anything about vendors on private lots, but the rally does what it can to eliminate insensitive material in its own merchandise.
“There’s a chief of police that we pay to go through those vendors several times a day to make sure none of that’s displayed,” Sisemore said.