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MONDAY. Sept. 18 — As a supporter of Country Mill’s right to discriminate based on the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs squared off with a supporter of the LGBT community on Sunday at the East Lansing Farmers Market, a City Pulse reporter was assaulted while recording the verbal debate.
As the man, who supported LGBT rights, argued with the woman, reporter Skyler Ashley stepped up to videotape the exchange. About a minute into the video, a woman wearing an orange checkered shirt swatted Ashley’s phone from behind.
“Stop doing that,” she said. “Stop.”
Ashley continued videorecording as the woman attempted to pull the other woman away from the conversation.
“You know what? We’re not talking about this anymore,” she said. “Because y’all don’t agree with it and we don’t agree with how you feel so we don’t want to get involved in it.”
The woman then spun around, placed her hand over Ashley’s phone and shoved it, announcing, “And we don’t want you to be recording.”
When confronted, she explained she didn’t want her mother being recorded.
“He looked like a little kid having a phone and put it on Facebook and put it out there,” she said of Ashley. She claimed that because he was not wearing media credentials she didn’t know any better.
Ashley filed a criminal complaint with East Lansing Police. However, he has declined to prosecute. ELPD declined to identify the woman on Sunday.
It is not against the law to photograph and videotape individuals in public spaces without their permission.
Lisa McGraw, public affairs manager for the Michigan Press Association, condemned the actions. City Pulse is a member of the Michigan Press Association.
“It’s disturbing to me that a reporter doing his job is assaulted in such a way in a public venue,” she said over Facebook Sunday evening. “This is clearly unacceptable and a hindrance to the freedom of the press.”
The orchard, in Charlotte, is at the center of a controversy at the East Lansing’s Farmers Market. Country Mill was prohibited earlier this year from obtaining a permit to sell apples and cider because owner Steve Tennes published a Facebook post in December announcing that Country Mill would not rent its barn and other facilities in Charlotte to same-sex couples for wedding events. He said he was motivated by his Catholic faith.
The city of East Lansing argued that Tennes’ action violated its anti-discrimination law.
Tennes sued the city in May, claiming his religious freedom was violated by the city’s actions. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney issued a temporary injunction requiring the city to allow Tennes and Country Mill back into the market. The city called the decision “disappointing” but is considering requesting a stay of the order while it appeals.
Tennes and Country Mill are being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its “virulently anti-LGBT” activities.
East Lansing has been flooded with emails condemning the city, City Clerk Marie Wicks said
Most of the emails came from people who did not live in East Lansing, and many from outside the state of Michigan. City Councilmembers and city leaders are referred to as “liberal scumbags,” “cunts,” “asses” and more. A package of 13 emails Wicks determined were inappropriate for publication on the city’s website were provided under a Freedom of Information Act request.