The trendy, traveling “makers and creators” market known as Phoenicia Flea landed squarely at the nexus of the nation’s political battle when the market’s founder and curator James Anthony rejected potential vendor Lorie McNab because of what he considered her anti-immigrant and anti-gay Facebook posts. Adding to the controversy was his glib message that he was turning the vendor down because she was a Republican.
Phoenicia Flea was started at the motel Graham & Co. in Phoenicia in 2014, when Anthony was general manager of the motel. Since then, the monthly market has been held at various locations in New York City and upstate, including the Lumberyard, a theater and event space in Catskill. Due to the controversy that exploded on Facebook over McNab’s rejection, Lumberyard cancelled Phoenicia Flea’s holiday event scheduled for late November. (Phoenicia Flea is not connected with the stationary Phoenicia Open Market, located in the former Phoenicia Pharmacy.)
The firestorm began when McNab sent an inquiry via Facebook message, asking if she could participate in Phoenicia Flea’s holiday event. Anthony went to her Facebook page to see what she was selling and was shocked by her reposting of a statement from IntelligentRedneck suggesting the migrant caravan heading through Mexico to the U.S. would bring infectious diseases over the border. Other posts carried what he considered anti-Muslim and anti-transgender sentiments. He replied to her query on the availability of space by sending a private message that said merely “Not for a Republican.”
Anthony wrote on the Phoenicia Flea page, “We made a stand to not work with individuals that publicly post on their Facebook pages to keep immigrants out of this country or any other hateful content. As the majority of our company is made up of women, LGBTQ, and people of color, we found this to be morally hypocritical and denied a prospective client access to our business model based on this individual publicly using this kind of rhetoric.”
He then apologized for “generalizing people in our response by using the term Republican,” but emphasized “the right to decline business with those who demonstrate they are not inclusive.” He has described himself as a gay Mexican-American.
Lumberyard, after considering the situation, posted an announcement stating that it “stands against discrimination of any kind, be it on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unfortunately, a situation has come to light that we feel violates those standards. Because of this, we will be cancelling Phoenicia Flea’s rental of our space in late November.” A representative of Lumberyard declined to comment further, except to emphasize that there is no formal relationship between Phoenicia Flea and Lumberyard aside from rental of space.
Anthony’s statement of Phoenicia Flea’s values concluded with the comment, “Since Lumberyard does not share the same conviction, we will be moving our event to a venue that does.”
In a brief interview, he stated, “This situation is a blessing. It reveals who people really are and what they stand for.”
McNab couldn’t be reached for comment.