Posts Tagged ‘occupy nh’

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The Occupy New Hampshire members ejected from Manchester’s Veterans Park on October 19, 2011 finally had their say before the New Hampshire Supreme Court yesterday.  Represented by Larry Vogelman on behalf of the NH Civil Liberties Union, the 14 Occupiers argued their rights to free speech and assembly trump the City of Manchester’s municipal ordinance establishing a curfew in public parks and furthermore that the definition of free speech in the state’s constitution offers a higher level of protection than does the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  

“I am privileged to represent the appellants in this case and through them the 99%,”nhsc 3-5-14 013 Vogelman began, and set out to lay out the rationale for the case.  He didn’t get far before he was interrupted.  “The State argues that there was no unifying message” of the protestors, asserted Justice Carol Ann Conboy.  Vogelman replied that the Occupiers were a diverse lot with a variety of grievances, but that they agreed it was possible to organize a society based on mutual respect and consensual decision-making.  And that required a 24-hour a day presence in the public park.

By picking up litter, restricting the use of drugs and alcohol, sharing food and shelter with people who were homeless, and working out their differences through discussion, the Occupiers created a harmonious spirit in Manchester’s parks that even reduced the need for police patrols during their short encampment, Vogelman explained. 

The attorney did not challenge the notion that the State has the right to regulate time, place, and manner of assembly and speech.  But the State still would need a compelling reason for the curfew to trump the free speech and assembly provisions of the New Hampshire Constitution.

The key provisions are Articles 22 and 32 of the NH Bill of Rights.

Art. 22.  Free Speech; Liberty of the Press

Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state.  They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved.

Art. 32. Rights of Assembly, Instruction, and Petition

The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble and consult upon the common good, give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by way of petition or remonstrance, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.

The contrast between Article 22 and the US Constitution’s First Amendment is fundamental to the legal point at issue.  Where the federal document says the government cannot itself abridge free speech, the state’s founding document gives the statenhsc 3-5-14 037 the obligation to actively protect it.  At least that’s what the words say, and Vogelman suggested that’s the first place to look to understand the meaning of a law.  

The State’s representative, Attorney Lisa Wolford from the Criminal Bureau of the Attorney General’s office, made the curious argument that the encampment was not speech at all, but instead was merely “facilitative conduct.”  The Justices did not seem to buy this argument.  Justice Hicks asked if civil rights marches had been “facilitative conduct” rather than speech, with a clear implication that he didn’t think so.  Justice Conboy even noted that the Occupiers had “a message that could not be conveyed” without a round the clock presence. 

Wolford pressed on with arguments challenging the notion that the protests nhsc 3-5-14 032 represented speech deserving of constitutional protection.  “Their problem was sort of amorphous,” she said.  “The core message was not the kind of crystallized symbolic message that you can communicate by a group of tents being in the park overnight.” 

Justice Conboy, at least, had a different understanding.  The purpose of the encampment, she said, was “to demonstrate and model a democratic and transparent government.  That’s the message.”  

The Justice may have understood better than the State’s representative what Occupy was trying to say.  That doesn’t mean she will agree with the legal case made by Larry Vogelman and the NH CLU.   A decision could be months away.   

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Democracy is a 24-Hour Enterprise, Manchester Occupiers Explain in Court

The spirit of the Occupy movement reappeared this morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court, where three activists arrested on criminal trespass charges October 19, 2011 took their case before a jury.

That day, the fifth in which occupiers were encamped in Manchester parks to show their displeasure with the imbalance of power in American economic and political life, Manchester police made it clear the city would no longer allow them to violate the curfew which bans public presence in city parks between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.  As Captain Robert Cunha explained then, and repeated in court today, the occupiers would be warned to vacate the park at 11 pm.  If they did not leave, they would be issued a citation for violating the curfew.  If they still refused to leave, they would be arrested for trespassing.  hillsboro sup court 3-21-13 012 crop

Today’s defendants – Matthew Richards, Beth Grunewald, and Elizabeth Edwards – were among those arrested for trespassing.  Today they had their day in court.  Or rather, their first day in Superior Court.

The three had already been tried in District Court, where they were found guilty.  Unlike most of the others tried that day, the three were eligible to appeal for a jury trial because their arrest on misdemeanor charges meant they could potentially be subject to time in jail.   With the able leadership of Barbara Keshen of the NH Civil Liberties Union, they tried to tell the jury their actions were warranted by the extreme problems facing the country and constitutionally protected.

I was in the courtroom as a witness for the defense.  Unfortunately, that meant I was “sequestered” for the first part of the trial.  No this was not like the current “sequester” of funds by the US Congress.  I did not have to give up a percentage of my income.  It meant I sat out in the hall gabbing with Will Hopkins and Matt Lawrence until we were called as witnesses after lunch.  And that meant I missed the opening arguments by the prosecutor and the defense.

As I understand the case, the prosecution wants to convince the jury that the occupiers knew  their presence in the park after 11 pm was illegal, and that they had ample alternative means to express their political views, for example by being in the park between 7 am and 11 pm.  The defense argued that the rights to speak, assemble, and petition the government for redress of grievances under the NH Constitution is a higher order legal principle than the city’s curfew ordinance.  

As an Occupy participant who observed the police actions which ended the Veterans Park occupation 17 months ago, I was there to help the jury understand the background of the Occupy movement, the principles of active nonviolence, and the role that civil disobedience can play in challenging unjust laws.  Unfortunately, thehillsboro sup court 3-21-13 008 crop judge sustained objections to many of the questions Barbara asked me.  Will  and Matt, both of whom left the park with citations, were similarly constrained.

But the defendants, who were all called as witnesses, were given greater latitude and delivered eloquent explanations to an attentive, mostly female jury.  

Matt Richards was first.  The 21-year-old Manchester native was allowed to describe the Occupy General Assemblies, at which participants practiced horizontal democracy, “where everyone can speak their mind.” 

“I shouldn’t have to leave when I’m protesting in a public park,” he said.  “My right to speech and assembly has more weight than a curfew.” 

Matt said he fled morally obligated to remain in the park, despite the curfew and the police order to leave.  He would not want his actions to imply that protests should take place “only when it is convenient to those in power.” 

Occupy is about endurance.  It is about not giving up when injustice is higher then the clouds and you can barely afford a step ladder.

Matt teared up as he recalled meeting a homeless mother of three in one of the parks.  She was carrying a sign that said, “I’m homeless.  Do I have a voice?”  Matt explained he, too, knows what it feels like to be treated as a trespasser in his own city.  But he said he also knows miracles can happen when people reclaim their voices and speak out for justice.

“Occupy is about endurance,” he told the jury.  “It is about not giving up when injustice is higher then the clouds and you can barely afford a step ladder.”

“The amount of money someone has should not influence how much power they have,” Beth Grunewald said.  The 26-year-old Merrimack native said the occupiers showed by example how to create a consensus democracy that is fair to everyone and takes care of those who need help. 

Refuting the prosecutor’s implications that the occupiers could have made their point without violating the city’s curfew, she said, “Democracy is not a 7 am to 11 pm job.”   By building community, sharing meals, and figuring out how to live together, the occupiers were demonstrating that “another world is possible.” 

Harkening back to civil rights activists arrested and brutalized for being in spaces the law told them they had no right to occupy, she said, “if it takes me staying in a park 24 hours a day, I will stay there.”

The final speaker was Elizabeth Edwards, a 24-year-old Manchester resident who said she joined the Occupy movement because she didn’t like some of the messages coming out of Occupy Wall Street and she wanted to keep an eye on what was developing here.  But she soon found out, she said, that she could be part of a community and engage in dialogue, even with people who might have some different ideas.  “Occupy was about proving that we can create this peaceful camaraderie now,” she said.

Her intent is to create solutions to social problems based entirely on voluntary consent, without government or coercion.  “We could do it with each other right here,” Elizabeth told the jury. 

The demonstrations in Veterans and Victory Parks in Manchester was part of a national movement based on occupation of public space to show the “long haul” nature of what is required to bring about change, she told the jury in response to aggressive questioning from the prosecutor.  “Nothing else is working,” she said.  

Elizabeth also made it clear it was her intent to put the issue before a jury, not a judge or panel of judges.  Her argument:  “In a public park I absolutely have the right of freedom of speech and assembly.”

“Sometimes,” she said, “you have to back down because the system is so much bigger than you are.”  But sometimes, she concluded, you have to stand up and do what’s right even if you don’t know what the consequences will be.

The trial continues in the morning, presumably with closing arguments and jury deliberation.  

POST-TRIAL NOTE:  The jury deliberated for only an hour before finding the defendants guilty.  The were apparently unwilling to see the case as a legitimate conflict between the constitution and the municipal curfew ordinance.  Elizabeth, Beth, and Matt were sentenced to community service.  The  convictions of the larger group for  violating the curfew will be appealed to the NH Supreme Court.  One of the questions:  what is the meaning of the word “inviolable” in Article 22 of the NH Bill of Rights? 


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I admit I have not read all the works of all the great revolutionaries and I may have forgotten most of what I have read. But I can’t recall Lenin, Mao, Gandhi, Che, Paine, Fanon, or Dellinger identifying violation of a municipal curfew as an important revolutionary tactic.  Barbara Deming makes no mention of curfews in “Revolution and Equilibrium.”  I don’t think Dorothy Day was ever busted for being out late after 11 pm. “Curfew vimanch dist ct 021olation” isn’t even on Gene Sharp’s famous list of 198 methods of nonviolent action (though I suppose it could be a sub-set of method 137, “refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse”). So the June 22 hearing at Manchester  District Court could prove to be historic.

At issue was the claim of 15 Occupy NH activists that the “right to revolution” expressed in the State Constitution gave them the right — and the obligation — to violate Manchester’s city curfew last October. With the legal leadership of Barbara Keshen, staff attorney for the NH Civil Liberties Union, they made a good case.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. After several days in which Occupy activistsmanchester 10-19-11 018 maintained an encampment in Manchester’s Victory Park they were told by police that the City would insist on enforcing its curfew ordinance, which calls for parks to be empty of human persons between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. On October 19, they shifted their encampment to Veterans Park, a more visible location a few blocks away. At 11 pm, police warned the activists they would be cited for violating the curfew if they refused to leave. Most of the people in the park (including me) scurried to the outside of the fence on Merrimack Street. Most of those who remained were given a summons for the curfew violation and left the park on their own steam. The few who still refused to leave were placed under arrest, charged with trespass in addition to the curfew violation, and taken to the Manchester Police Station. (See my earlier posts for details.)

The Right to Revolution

What is in dispute is whether Constitutional protections of speech and assembly trump the curfew. Also in dispute is whether Part One, Article Ten of the New Hampshire Constitution, titled “Right to Revolution,” has any bearing.

Article Ten states:

“Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

Once we’ve verified that “emolument” means what we think it means, it’s not hard to make the case that government is serving the private interests of a class of men, that the endsmanch dist ct 012 of government have been perverted, that public liberty is long past being at risk, and that conventional means of redress haven’t been all that effective, our own Constitution is telling us it’s time for action.

Defendants Will Hopkins and Matt Lawrence both testified that they have felt unable to influence government through conventional methods. Hopkins, director at NH Peace Action, explained that months of persistent work can go into getting a brief, inconsequential meeting with one of our US Senators. Occupiers are diverse in age and ideology, he said, but share the view that “we no longer have a way to seek redress of our grievances.”

Lawrence said much the same thing, while explaining how the Occupy encampment was set up to house, clothe, and feed everyone who showed up and give voice to allmanch dist ct 033 who wanted to participate. “I have an issue with a government that makes it possible for some people to make a ton of money while others are living in squalor,” he told John Blanchard, a Manchester prosecutor, during cross examination.

The hearing’s most dramatic movement was the introduction of proof that the Occupiers were familiar with Article Ten and in fact quite enthusiastic about it. Seth Cohn, a State Representative who identifies with both Occupy and with the Tea Party, participated in the Occupy demonstrations last fall.  On the witness stand, Cohn explained that he had read the relevant constitutional passage during a Veterans Park General Assembly at which the “people’s mic” was being used as a means for sound amplification. Without objection from the prosecution, Kersten Cornell, a UNH law student doing an internship with the NH CLU, set up a laptop and video projector and popped in a DVD. Soon everyone in the courtroom could hear Rep. Cohn shouting omanch dist ct 047ut a few words at a time from Article Ten with the whole crowd repeating the words in unison. (It was hard to resist joining in, but I was pretty sure Judge Lyons would not approve.)  At the end everyone cheered. Or as Cohn understated on the witness stand, “there was general agreement with that statement.”

The DVD was admitted as Defense Exhibit E.

Cohn also testified that it’s not just the federal government that is held captive to  moneyed interests. After a two-year term as a State Rep (one of mine, in fact), he said that state government may appear to be accessible to citizens, but that’s because the “influence that happens because of lobbyists is invisible.” Lobbyists, of course, work for organizations and businesses that can pay them. “Ninety percent of what goes on behind the scenes is about money,” he explained.

Law Professor Speaks about Perversion (of government)

manch dist ct 018 Jim Pope

Once the defense overcame prosecutors objections to his qualification as an expert witness, Jim Pope, a Rutgers University Law Professor, took the stand to make the case that the ends of government have been perverted in the interest of the rich. Using a set of slides familiar to anyone who’s been following discussions of the manch dist ct 030 crop growing gap between the rich and everyone else, Pope illustrated the nation’s widening income gap, the change in the top marginal tax rate, the recent drop in union membership, and the share of national income claimed by the wealthiest 10% of Americans.

“Are the ends of government perverted?” Attorney Keshen asked.

“There is a gigantic shift in that direction over the last thirty years or so,” the professor responded. “Workers are getting a smaller and smaller proportion of the proceeds of industry,” he added a bit later.

“Is public liberty manifestly endangered?” Keshen asked.

“Public liberty is endangered because of the influence of money on politics,” Pope manch dist ct 050 responded.

It’s not that lobbyists and contributors directly buy votes, he explained. But members of Congress spend 30% of their time raising campaign funds, he said. That means they are calling up rich people on the phone while their constituents futilely try to get their grievances redressed. And there’s little doubt that fundraising has to weigh on them during the 70% of their time they are supposed to be doing the people’s business. It’s “a pervasive kind of influence,” Pope testified.

Pope’s real area of expertise is not economics; he has studied the impact of social movements on the law. American history, he said, has seen a series of major “republican moments” (note the lower case “r”) in which people have risen up to challenge a legally protected status quo. Major examples he cited were the American Revolution, the Jacksonian period, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Populists, the New Deal, and the Sixties.

During normal times, he said, most people stay out of politics and governments are dominated by elites. But “increasingly the citizenry begins to feel frustrated,” and eventually something happens that ignites a passionate form of politics unlike business as usual. When large numbers of people are drawn into politics and “ordinary people are doing things that are extraordinary,” that’s a “republican moment.”

Pope outlined five features of a republican moment:

  1. Unlike normal times, large numbers of people engage in serious political discourse;
  2. Arguments are moral rather than “pecuniary,” based on the common good, not private interest;
  3. The subjects of debate are fundamental;
  4. Representative politics is overshadowed by direct participation; and
  5. Social movements displace political parties and interest groups as the most powerful actors.

Citing sit-down strikes and sit-ins of earlier periods, Pope said “occupying spaces is exactly the kind of protest tactic that this kind of movement traditionally uses.” Without commenting on how Article Ten should be interpreted (a topic the Judge had made clear was beyond the expertise Pope was entitled to draw upon), the professor reminded the court that Article Ten came from the generation which escalated its protests from peaceful petitions and boycotts to outright armed struggle.

“Is the reason to make sure power resides in the people?” Keshen asked.

Pope agreed.

I was the final witness and I didn’t take notes, so I don’t remember exactly what I manch dist ct 064 said. But I did enjoy the prosecutor’s question about whether Occupy activists had marched to Mitt Romney’s campaign HQ in Manchester. I explained that this had occurred, that Romney was there, and that the activists had invited him to attend the General Assembly.  (He declined.)  I also affirmed that I delivered a bit of a pep talk about nonviolence and civil disobedience just at the police were moving into the park at 11 pm on October 19.  A set of my photos, which appeared on this blog, was introduced as evidence by the defense. 

Judge Lyons has given both parties ten days to submit legal memos. From their lines of questioning, I expect prosecutors to make a case that Occupy protesters had notmanch dist ct 049 exhausted their means of redress and in fact were engaged in all sorts of other actions to make their voices heard. In other words, a presence in the park between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am was not essential. The defense will presumably restate its argument that the 24-hour occupation, along with the principles of direct democracy, is a fundamental part of the social transformation sought by the occupiers, and is therefore in need of Constitutional protection.

I would not count on Judge Lyons to rule for the defense. But the defendants and their attorney are determined to take their case up the legal chain. By the time it’s over, we could see the NH Supreme Court rule that the constitutional right to revolution protects the Occupiers desire to be in a public park after curfew.

(Thanks to Kersten Cornell for the photo of me.) 

IYou can also read coverage of yesterday’s hearing in the Concord Monitor and NH Union Leader, and view a story from WMUR TV.)

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Inequality Matters

When Chuck Collins started United for a Fair Economy (originally called “Share the Wealth”) in the 1990s, some economists denied that economic inequality was growing.  That debate is over.  Speaking in Manchester May 29, Collins said the debate is now whether inequality matters and what can be done about it.

Here’s the short answer:P1000690

Inequality matters.

The trends which increased inequality are reversible.

We are in “a new period of extreme inequality,” Collins told more than 80 people at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, and it’s “trashing all that we care about.”  It’s not jut that some people are poor and some are rich, but that the growing gap leads to a breakdown in social solidarity as the wealthy stop investing in the social infrastructure .  Our children, our health, our culture, our environment, and our democracy all suffer.  

Collins outlines the problem and some solutions in his new book, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It.  The prescription has three basic components:  invest in opportunity, raise the floor, and tax wealthy people and the corporations they own.  

While the 99 to 1 framework is a tad simplistic, he said, trade and tax policies really have been changed to benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else.  

As the great-grandson of Oscar Mayer (yes, that Oscar Mayer), Collins knows a thing or two about the 1%, including his former schoolmate Mitt Romney.   In addition to development of creative educational techniques to demystify economic issues, Collins has also worked to find allies for change within the ranks of the wealthy. 

A Q&A session that could have gone on much longer touched off an important discussion about whether solutions can emerge from the existing political system.    Collins is not ready to throw out lobbying or electoral politics, but sees the greatest potential in social movements made up of small groups of like-minded people working together on common projects.  He reminded the audience that Gandhi based his program not only on mass nonviolent resistance but also on the “constructive program.”

“Exercise your democracy muscles each day,” he said.

Collins’ talk was sponsored by the UU Church of Manchester, the American Friends Service Committee, Granite State Priorities, Occupy Manchester, NH Citizens Alliance, and the Granite State Organizing Project.  


Occupy activists posed with Chuck after the talk.

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A crowd of about a hundred people combined pro-immigrant and pro-worker messages at a May Day rally outside the Dover, New Hampshire City Hall today.  Despite an on-again off-again drizzle, spirits stayed strong during speeches by immigrant and religious leaders, songs led by Rev. Mary Westfall, and music 5-1-12 008 performed by the Leftist Marching Band.

The rally was organized by the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and emceed by its organizer, Eva Castillo.  Support also came from the American Friends Service Committee and Occupy Dover.

Speakers included Dr. Sara Alier, President 5-1-12 050of the South Sudanese Association; Suraj Budathoki, a member of the Bhutanese Community of NH; the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the  Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church in Madbury; Attorney Larry Vogelman; Maggie Fogarty of the AFSC; State Rep. David Watters of Dover; and the Rev. Kendra Ford of the Exeter UU Church.

The connections between workers and immigrants were evident, for example in 5-1-12 078remarks of several speakers concerning a February incident in which reports of wage theft at a nearby construction site prompted community protests which helped the workers collect pay they were owed.  Lindsey Wettleland of Occupy Dover also noted that Dover was the site of the first industrial strike by women in the USA.  Judy Elliott, an ESOL teach and NH COSH safety trainer spoke about the common on-the-job injuries experienced by immigrant workers and the rights that all workers have to a safe workplace. 

Danny Provencal Fogarty, a Dover 8th grader, was probably the most effective speaker with his reading of the Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue 5-1-12 052of Liberty and impromptu remarks – in Spanish and English – about his own experience living in a Bolivian village and the importance of having a welcoming attitude to immigrants.  Danny has a future as a public speaker!

A small counter-protest by the Granite State Patriots, a tea party group led by a one-time head of the State Republican Party, drew only 5 people.  They complied with requests to be a non-disruptive presence and left halfway through the rally.

The rally featured spirited renditions of “This Land is Your Land,” “We Shall Not  Be Moved,” and “We Shall Overcome.”  “Solidarity Forever” was sung with choruses in Spanish and Indonesian as well as English. 

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Here’s my new verse for “This Land is Your Land”

“We are dissenters from the one per centers,

For human rights, we are defenders,

For social justice, we are extenders,

This land was made for you and me.”5-1-12 080

May 1 rallies for immigrants’ rights in recent years had been held in Manchester and Nashua.   The decision to hold this year’s rally in Dover followed a February incident in which Dover police called federal immigration authorities when a small group of immigrants showed up at the police station to report an incident of wage theft and request assistance.

Earlier in the day immigrants rights activists attended a State House hearing on a resolution of  support for Arizona’s repressive immigration law, known as SB 1070.  Not a single supporter, no5-1-12 001t even the resolution’s sponsor, showed up to speak for the non-binding expression of intolerance.  But opponents included Eva Castillo, Judy Elliott from NH AIR, Clair Ebel of the NH Civil Liberties Union, Cathy Chesley from Catholic Charities, Attorney Enrique Mesa, Louise Hannan of NH COSH, and me.  Following the hearing, the Senate Internal Affairs Committee voted 2-1 to recommend killing the resolution, which had already passed the NH House.  

Here’s more photos:

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“The criminal laws cannot be used to suppress this revolution”

My acquaintance with New Hampshire’s Constitution began while I was incarcerated in the National Guard armory in Concord following my arrest – and that of 1414 others – at the Seabrook nuclear plant construction site in 1977. As I recall, someone passed out copies of a blue-covered booklet containing the story and text of the state’s foundation document, and said “check out Article Ten of the Bill of Rights.”

Article Ten, adopted in 1784, describes the “Right to Revolution” as follows:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

By definition, revolution takes place outside the law, and this provision seems to be a statement of political philosophy more than a principle of governance. But Guy Chichester used it successfully before a jury following his 1990 arrest for chainsawing down a Seabrook Station evacuation siren pole.

I made reference to Article Ten in a pre-sentencing statement before Judge William Lyons in Manchester District Court on May 17, 1999. I was then a member of a dangerous gang dubbed “the Footlocker Eight,” on trial for criminal trespass after committing the act of distributing anti-sweatshop leaflets inside the Mall of New Hampshire.

Citing the Constitution, I said “It is not only our right as citizens to assemble and speak about the common good, it is our duty as citizens of New Hampshire to actively resist oppression.”

My statement to the Judge also referred to Article 22, which states,

“Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state: They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved,”

and Article 32, which asserts

“The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble and consult upon the common good, give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by way of petition or remonstrance, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.”

Now, Barbara Keshen, staff attorney for the NH Civil Liberties Union, is citing the same provisions of the New Hampshire Constitution in an elegant motion to dismiss charges against fifteen people cited with trespass and curfew violation charges  stemming from Occupy New Hampshire’s encampment at Manchester’s Veterans Park last fall.

The root of Keshen’s argument is that protection for political speech trumps the city’s curfew, which prohibits people from being in Veterans Park between 11 pm and 7 am. Therefore, police had no right to arrest the Occupy protesters, whose presence in the park was clearly political in nature. And while the First Amendment to the US Constitution merely says the government shall not interfere with speech, “our constitution requires that the government act affirmatively to safeguard free speech,” she argued.

“Our constitution consciously ties free speech to a free state. It requires the government not just to refrain from abridging free speech, but to inviolably preserve free speech,” Keshen said.

Keshen goes further, and asserts that the “peaceful and revolutionary activity” in which the protesters were engaged is protected by Article Ten. “The criminal laws cannot be used to suppress this revolution,” states the Motion to Dismiss.

Unlike the Guy Chichester case, the audience for this legal argument is not a jury. It is the same Judge Lyons, still presiding at Manchester District Court 13 years after he found the Footlocker Eight guilty as charged.

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“Mic check,” shouts a young man.

Mic check,” several dozen people respond responsively.IMAG0383

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two pepperoni.”

Two Pepperoni.”

Thus ended the “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” project at a party downstairs at McNeil’s Banquet Facility on the west side of Manchester Tuesday night.  While the votes were being counted, the candidates were giving speeches, and their supporters were faithfully cheering them on to their ultimate victories, Occupy activists chatted, sang, played guitars, and swapped stories of what they had accomplished over the previous five days.

Barbara feels great that she had been able to host ten visitors from Occupy Wall Street, and said she enjoyed working in the kitchen at St. Augustin Church, which had invited the movement to use its parish hall for a few hours each afternoon.  Barbara also accompanied the OWS group to a Romney event, where they were able to engage him about the2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 027 role of money in politics. She hands me a leaflet about “Grey Heat on K Street,” a demonstration planned for April 21 to expose corporate lobbyists. 

Getting money out of politics was a popular theme among the activists.  It didn’t  hurt that Brett and Alex had produced a large number impressive signs and banners that were convenient to carry.  “We owned the narrative,” Brett says, emphasizing that it is important to go after the Democrats, too. 

“Mic check,” Alex shouts. 

“Mic check,” everyone responds.

“We are going to the Romney event,” Alex says.”

“We are going to the Romney event.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

Alex and Brett head for Southern New Hampshire University, where Romney’s victory party is underway.

Katie, one of the main organizers, says she is pretty positive about what they had accomplished.  “It was the circus I was hoping for,” she says.  While it wasn’t as planned as it might have been, “everything fell into place.”  She says the highlight was Saturday night’s Funeral Procession for the Middle Class, especially when supporters of GOP candidates joined the Occupiers chanting “Hey Hey Ho Ho Corporate Greed Has Got To Go.”

Jerry, from Occupy Nashua, went to a Gingrich “town hall meeting” intending to try to ask a question.  He didn’t get called on, but still feels like he had picked up useful political skills. 

Darius, from Occupy Providence, tells me he mic checked Rick Santorum at a tow2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 054 n hall meeting in Hollis, where he was impressed with a young man who challenged the candidate opposition to gay rights. 

One activist tells me he voted for Jon Huntsman, a candidate he “could live with.”  Another tells me she voted for Vermin Supreme, the only candidate who showed up for the Occupy party. Vermin placed third in the Democratic race, with 831 votes (though nearly 6000 people wrote in candidates whose names will never get reported).

“Mic check,” a young woman yells.

“Mic check,” everyone yells back. 

“Who took my Ron Paul pin?”

“Who took my Ron Paul pin.”

Two visiting activists from Massachusetts tell me they met Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, in the bar at the Radisson.  Steele told them the Occupy movements speaks to “people’s frustration with the way government operates.”

“That’s the only way the system’s going to change, by what you do,” he told them.  Steele parted ways on whether bankers who raked in millions should be prosecuted and jailed. 

Marianne tells me about a woman in Nashua who lost her job due to cancer treatments, and then lost her home to the mortgage company. Marianne and I discuss whether it might be possible to re-occupy the now vacant home. 

Krista has a Masters degree in civil and environmental engineering, but can’t find a job.  She had a position in her field for ten months, funded by the Obama “stimulus” program, but the job ended when the ARRA funds ran out.  “We were told to beg, borrow, or steal to go to college,” she says.  Now she and her husband, also an engineer, are $90,000 in debt.  He’s joined the Army Reserves.  Employers don’t want to hire entry level people who need training, she says.  Krista hasn’t been very involved with Occupy NH, but she did go to Occupy the Capitol in Washington.  2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 109

Mitt Romney, who is getting heat because he made a fortune at Bain Capital from taking over and shutting down companies, tells his fans that they should avoid “the bitter politics of envy.”  Romney (spelled “Rmoney” in one Occupy video I watched) warns against “resentment of success” in his victory speech. 

One success of Occupy the NH Primary is that it brought together activists from all over New Hampshire plus several other northeast states for five days of action.  While the initial schedule focused on events scheduled for Veterans Park or the Unitarian Church, the Occupiers figured out pretty quickly that they could take their message directly to the candidates, who were cris-crossing southern New Hampshire.  By Tuesday evening, many of them have headed home. 

“I miss the New York people already,” someone says.

Paul is one of the New York people who hasn’t left yet.  He’s impressed by the success of Occupy the NH Primary in reaching candidates, the media, and the people with its message about inequality, corporate power, and the corrosive effect of money on democracy.   He arrives late for the Victory Party.  “I spent the day trying to organize South Carolina,” he says. 


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The day before the New Hampshire Primary is typically a busy one for candidates, who rush from rally to rally in order to inspire their followers and reach the last few undecided voters.  Newt Gingrich was planning a 6 PM stop at his own downtown Manchester campaign office, in between a 4 PM “town hall meeting” in Hudson and an 8 PM visit to a Concord sports bar.  By 5:45, the sidewalk in front of the 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 033 crop office was crowded with Occupy activists carrying “money out of politics” signs and Ron Paul supporters, plus reporters and Gingrich campaign workers.   That late in a busy, daylong schedule, it’s normal for candidates to be late, so Vermin Supreme, the provocateur clown candidate who promises everyone will get a free pony if he is elected, had a perfect stage for his performance. 

Inside the campaign office, it also grew crowded with Newt fans and reporters.  I took off my 99% pin and slipped in, finding a spot at the back of the room near the reception desk.  I was hoping for a chance to ask Gingrich how he would address the corrupting influence of the country’s widening wealth disparities.  The only spot in the room where there was room for Newt was behind the reception desk, so I thought I’d be literally in his2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 038 face.  While I waited I had a friendly talk with Rhonda and Grace, both local Republicans.   (Rhonda and I agreed “Medicare for All” would be a good way to settle  the health care debate.)  Outside, Occupiers decided to split their ranks between the front and back doors to the building. 

At about 7 PM, reporters started to leave.  New Hampshire campaign manager, Andrew Hemingway, worked the room and told disappointed Newt fans that the former Speaker was not coming, apparently due to security issues created by protesters.

As the New York Times reported, “His campaign’s security team pulled the plug on the event after determining that the front and back entrances to the office were unsafe for Mr. Gingrich and his wife to enter, said R.C. Hammond, the campaign spokesman.”

2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 039 Occupiers marched off to Jillian’s, a mill district restaurant where Rick Santorum had a 7:15 PM event, hoping to repeat their performance.  Needless to say, I missed my chance to have a chat with Newt.

Republicans weren’t the only ones to get the Occupy treatment yesterday.  A couple dozen Occupy activists, from several northeastern states, shut down the Obama campaign office in Manchester for more than an hour, demanding an end to the “cozy relationship between Wall Street and Corporations and the White House and Congress.”

The daily General Assembly was a short visit from Captain Robert Cunha of the Manchester Police Department, who commended the activists for “cooperation at the Obama office.”  He noted that conflicts between law enforcement and the Occupy movement, which he called “bumps in the road,” are likely to take place, but stressed that “cooperation goes a long way.”  Local activists expressed their interest 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 017 in continuing to have open communication with the police, and re-stated that there are no plans to interfere with voting today.   Captain Cunha also said an investigation is underway following an alleged assault by a campaign worker against an Occupier the previous day, apparently during Newt Gingrich’s visit to the Don Quijote restaurant.  

Occupy the NH Primary will wrap up at MacNeil’s Banquet Facility, 837 Second St. on the West Side of Manchester, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm today.  “The McNeil’s have offered their banquet room to Occupy NH without charge. We have to bring our own food. We can potluck, order BBQ from KC’s rib shack, etc.  Bring some $$ for beer/wine/soda,” says the OccupyNH web page.

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More Snapshots from Occupy the NH Primary

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The highlight of Saturday afternoon was definitely the GLBT March from Veterans Park to Victory Park by way of the Bank of America.  I counted 200 people, some chanting “1,2,3,4, Open Up Your Closet Door, 5,6,7,8, Don’t Assume Your 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 111 Kids Are Straight,”  while others chanted “Ru Paul Not Ron Paul,” and the ever popular “We are the 99%.”  Since all the chants were going on simultaneously in a procession that stretched across a city block, it was interesting to hear an impassioned marcher at a short Victory Park assembly express how great it felt that “we’re all saying the same thing.”  Despite the irony, her meaning was obvious: there was a spirit of solidarity of the Occupy movement with gays and lesbians whose lives are under attack by the Republican candidates.

I should say, the Republican candidates with one exception:  Fred Karger, a longtime Republican and gay activist who’s name will be on the GOP ballot 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 056 Tuesday, was part of the march.  He said he has visited Occupiers in several cities during campaign visits.  

The members of the Leftist Marching Band gave marchers a lift, as they always do.  They also joined the Funeral Procession for the American Dream prior to last night’s debate at St. Anselm College.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there so you’ll have to look elsewhere for reports of a spirited demonstration that included more people than any of the candidates mustered.  

Given the heavily-discussed reluctance of the Occupy movement to2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 001 develop a platform, it’s worth noting that the theme of “money out of politics” is one that  resonates with everyone.  A graphic design created by Brett Chamberlin and Alex Freid, both of Durham, is omnipresent at Occupy the Primary, and even hung from the Kennedy Tower next to the Capitol Center for the Arts, where the weekend’s second debate was held this morning. 

Occupy activists clustered on the sidewalk, just north of the theatre, next to Jon Huntsman’s contingent (Huntsman supporters included a goat.  No, I don’t know its significance.).  Romney and Paul supporters likewise greeted t2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 003 crophe ticketed audience that stretched out along the sidewalk in the  middle of the Occupiers and campaign volunteers.  There may have been a few Santorum signs, too, but I didn’t spot sign-holders from the Perry or Gingrich campaigns.  A contingent of anti-Zionist rabbis, dressed in black, held the space just south of the Capitol Center entrance. 

Across the street were members of the Communications Workers of America, employees of the NH Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper and one of the debate co-sponsors.  They are in the midst of an ugly contract dispute with the paper’s publisher Joe McQuaid, who has laid off workers, increased hours without a pay raise, and essentially refused to bargain.   The CWA members were joined by visiting members of the United Auto Workers, who are spending a few days annoying GOP candidates and also meeting with labor and political allies. 

When the debate ended, at about 10:30, most everyone but t2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 013he Ron Paul and Occupy folks left.  That meant it was a good time for a wedding to be held between a corporation and a person.  I objected at the appropriate moment in  the ceremony, and said that in New Hampshire a man can marry a woman, a man can marry a man, and a woman can marry a woman, but neither a man nor a woman can marry a corporation since, despite Mitt Romney’s claim, corporations are not people.  

 The Occupiers and Ron Paul groups shifted locations to the south side of the theatre, where the candidates’ vehicles were parked.  There, joined by a handful of reporters and unaffiliated Primary 2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 031 crop gawkers, they waited for the candidates to emerge.  As each candidate left the building and got into his car, Brett delivered a short, personalized speech for each one, with help of the people’s mic.  The only exception was Rick Santorum, who was greeted by a loud, spontaneous chorus of boos from all, including the Paulists.

That seemed to be a common enough reaction to the former Senator that he cancelled his remaining New Hampshire campaign events and flew off to South Carolina, where he no d2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 039oubt hopes to get a warmer reception. 

Occupy the NH Primary re-convened in Veterans Park for an evening General Assembly.  Topics included a debrief of the previous night’s action, a report on communications with the Manchester police, proposed actions for Monday, and ideas for other gatherings of Occupiers from northeastern states. 

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Populist Republican Staying in the Race

Buddy Roemer, a former governor and former member of Congress whose populist campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has been largely ignored by voters, the news media, and campaign donors, defiantly announced this afternoon that he is…staying in the race for the presidency.   

2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 106 Speaking to a roomful of reporters and supporters at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, Roemer’s big announcement was that “I will not suspend my campaign.”

Roemer has set a $100 maximum on campaign contributions, a pledge that matched his anti-big business platform.  No surprise, the bucks have not been rolling in.  Shut out of the debates by the major media organizations, despite poll numbers he says are as good as those of Rick Perry, Roemer has had a hard time getting his message to GOP voters.

He has been visiting the Occupy NH activists, though.  “I’m with the young people,” he said.  “Occupy is not right in many things, but they’re right in one thing,” he said, “They smell corruption.”

Roemer said he’ll keep up the fight against government corruption, even if he has to be “a thorn in the side of the Republican Party.”


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