Black Lives Matter protestors took to streets of Naples for the fifth time since June 1 this past weekend. They were protesting Oakes Farms, a popular agribusiness in Collier County, and its founder and CEO, Alfie Oakes.
Oakes recently sparked controversy over a Facebook post calling the Black Lives Matter movement and the novel coronavirus pandemic a “hoax” and George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, a “disgraceful career criminal.”
The Activist Protection League of Southwest Florida (APL), a local activist group, organized the Anti-Oakes Farm protest after hearing about the situation. Kris Knudson, a co-founder of the group, saw the need to protest and helped organize the event to ensure everything was done in a “safe and legal manner.”
Protestors stationed themselves outside of Seed to Table on the corner of Livingston and Immokalee Road. Many of the protestors met in North Collier Regional Park, about a mile from Seed to Table and marched to the location a little after 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“I’ve lived in Naples my entire life so I am not surprised by these tactics. I know how these people think and I know what they think so you know, he’s allowed to have his party and we’re allowed to have ours,” said Knudson.
Oakes is notorious in SWFL for his social media blasts, usually criticizing liberal and left-leaning people while promoting right-wing content on his Facebook to his over 3,000 followers.
After his post calling out COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement, activists created a petition calling on the Lee County school district to sever ties with Oakes Farms, including a $150,000 contract that is scheduled to be in effect until June of 2021.
Collier County Public Schools say the district used Oakes Farm as a “stop-gap” measure when their main distributor was unavailable to provide resources for April and May. The school district will resume working with its previous provider in July.
Oakes, however, remains confident in his views and will not apologize for what he said.
“I’m not going to apologize ever for the meaning on that post,” Oakes said to SFMN. “I would like to apologize for maybe some of the words and the way that it was written.”
Days after news of the anti-Oakes Farms protest were released, Oakes took to Facebook once again to set up his own counter-protest at his North Naples establishment an hour before APL’s. His protest featured free food and beverages along with a word of prayer and singing of the national anthem.
Hundreds of Oakes Farms supporters flooded the front doors of the Seed to Table grocery store in North Naples. Many of the mask-less supporters were clad in President Donald Trump memorabilia and held signs saying “All Lives Matter”, “We Want Our Country Back,” and more.
Some pro-Oakes Farm protestors then left the store and posted up next to the BLM supporters. They then shouted profanities, to which the others responded by chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
Later, Collier County police officers and a torrential downpour allayed the conflict.
While the two sides remained separated for the remainder of the protests, some Black Lives Matter demonstrators began to dance under the pouring rain singing, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Alfie Oakes has got to go” as cars passed by and honked.
Similar to the previous protests, the Black Lives Matter protestors concluded the event with all attendees kneeling and observing a moment of silence for Floyd.
Byron Donalds, a Republican candidate for Florida’s 19th Congressional district, was present at the event to promote his campaign. Donalds said he supports Oakes Farm and believes protestors are jumping to conclusions.
“They’ve taken a statement off of Facebook, and they read into it what they wanted to read, as opposed to contacting Alfie Oakes the man and sitting down with him and trying to get an understanding of what he means and what he’s standing for,” said Donalds.
Jennifer Kennedy, 46, showed up to protest Oakes Farm. “He’s a joke, that’s all I can say about him. He cannot be taken seriously. If that’s what you want representing what you stand for, then have fun, because as you can see it’s not working out for him,” said Kennedy.