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Police forced to break up farmer’s market clash over RFK Jr

Two groups, one in support of the president and one in support of Robert F Kennedy Jr, went head to head in Hudson Valley

Kelly Rissman
Thursday 10 August 2023 20:53 BST
White House condemns RFK Jr's 'vile' antisemitic Covid conspiracy claim

An argument between supporters of rival Democratic presidential candidates became so intense at an upstate New York farmer’s market that police were forced to intervene to break it up.

A group of Joe Biden backers set up a table at the event in Rhinebeck in the Hudson Valley, as they had reserved to do, and planted themselves near a Robert F Kennedy Jr supporter; pretty quickly, things became less than peachy between the two camps, according to the Hudson Valley Pilot.

“A Prius-driving gentleman from Red Hook” has planted himself at the local farmer’s market every Sunday, “displaying multiple signs in support of Kennedy, and engaging passersby in political discussion,” the outlet reported. The Daily Beast identified him as 83-year-old Frank Stoppenbach.

Rhinebeck Democratic Committee, the pro-Biden group, reportedly held up a sign that read: “We do NOT support RFK Jr.”

“​When people came up, he talked to them about, you know, vaccines are bad, and masking is bad, and all the stuff that RFK says,” Larry Cox, a member of the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee, told The Daily Beast. “The problem is that being right next to us, people were thinking that he was part of us.”

The chair of the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee, Warren Smith, told the publication that typically, people disagreeing over who the Democratic nominee should be would be one thing, but “this is kind of a different thing because RFK Jr has staked out a position that is on the fringes of the party.”

The Kennedy supporter, disagreed, arguing, “Why there should be any dispute about the nomination being contested, I can’t understand.”

The exchange became so heated, though, that the police had to get involved—twice—according to the Hudson Valley Pilot.

Another member of the pro-Biden camp, Roger Quon, agreed with Mr Stoppenbach, saying the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee should “be seen as a place for all Democrats.” He continued, “We can disagree with [Kennedy] on one or many points, but that’s the essence of democracy.”

The Kennedy supporter told The Daily Beast that he was trying to raise awareness about RFK Jr, and encouraged a primary debate between the Democratic candidates.

“I simply park where people come by,” Mr Stoppenbach defended himself. “I guess there may have been some people not happy with having a Kennedy appearance at the market.”

Mr Cox said his group put up the poster because they “don’t want to be associated in any way with RFK, Jr., and especially with his views, which we all agree are abhorrent and crazy.”

He said his group put up the poster after “we asked [Mr Stoppenbach] to move some other place so that people wouldn’t be confused, which he didn’t want to do.”

Mr Cox brushed off the altercation: “It wasn’t any sort of, as far as I know, any physical confrontation. Just an old guy with crazy ideas. Which, you know, there’s no shortage of in the United States these days.”

Mr Stoppenbach told The Daily Beast that he wasn’t sure whether he would return to the farmer’s market next Sunday. “I’m 83 years old, so I don’t quite have the energy I did when I was a young guy running for Congress,” he said, adding, but, “you never know.”

The Biden-Kennedy farmer’s market feud is a perfect example of what is going on at a national scale, as supporters of the president have become frustrated by Mr Kennedy’s candidacy, as he is the only person running for the Democratic nomination against the incumbent who is cutting into his poll numbers, according to FiveThirtyEight polls.

Still, the president holds a massive lead. As of Wednesday, Mr Biden was polling at 64.3 per cent compared to Mr Kennedy’s 15.2 per cent. Mr Kennedy’s claims along the campaign trail have recently come under scrutiny, as his words—namely those around his stance on vaccines—seem to be inconsistent with his actual record.

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