Responding to Vandalized Rainbow Benches, UCC Launches #onthebench Selfie Contest!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

This morning, Christopher Cornell of the United Church of Christ at the head of Central Square in Downtown Keene announced a really cool selfie contest in response to  continued vandalization of their rainbow benches in Elsie Priest Park, just behind the UCC on Church St.

At least one unknown vandal in her sixties has been caught in the act of painting the rainbow bench in red.  She ran to her red compact car and took off.  The bench was subsequently painted rainbow by more volunteers, then attacked by the vandal(s) again, and so on.  The church has plenty of paint and volunteers.  Love will win over hate.

UCC administrator Mark C. Harris explained in a post to the church blog that the benches were painted rainbow this summer by volunteers and that they represent that, “We want everyone to feel welcome to use the park. This is in good keeping with our belief that all of God’s children are beloved, no matter who they are, or where they are on life’s journey. All are welcome, no matter their gender, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, difference in abilities, religion or absence thereof.”

Renee Kate and Jazzy on the Rainbow Bench!

Renee Kate and Jazzy Showing Love > Hate

Today the benches are rainbow and people who side with love have been invited by the UCC to visit them and take a selfie, and post it on social media tagged with #onthebench.  there are prizes, and the contest for the best selfie ends Saturday September 5th, at 10pm, which coincides with the end of the Keene Music Festival.

Speculation abounds as to the motivation of the vandal(s) – it’s easy to jump to a conclusion and say it’s someone with an anti-gay sentiment, but longtime readers of this blog will also recall the controversy back in 2009 when local entrepreneur Dorrie O’Meara launched her Mexican restaurant Pedraza’s.  Some people around town were upset because O’Meara painted her building yellow!  Certain grumpy people in this area seem to hate colors besides brick red and gray.

Ian Freeman and Jazzy at the Rainbow Bench

Take this, vandals!

Cornell said in an interview for Free Keene that he thinks the first time the the vandal(s) struck, the benches were fully painted red, but that since then the vandal(s) have only painted over the yellow part.  He’s losing track of the amount of times the benches have been vandalized, but thinks it may have been at least six times, all since the beginning of August.

Smart move on the UCC’s part to make this into a hopefully-viral phenomenon.  The vandals, whatever the hate they carry in their hearts, probably weren’t expecting these benches to turn into a movement!

The Shire Free Church is joining in solidarity with the UCC and all those who support love over hate, so I went out with Renee Kate and Jazzy the Studio Dog for a photo shoot this afternoon.  Remember to tag your bench selfies with #onthebench on your social media posts.

Stay tuned to Free Keene for the latest on this controversy. Last year it was chalk causing controversy, this year it’s rainbows!

Federal Court upholds restriction on petitioning

Originally published by the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition

In 2014 the New Hampshire General Court passed a new restriction on minor party access to the general election ballot by prohibiting a political organization from collecting petitions before the election year. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit challenging this new law. A similar law in Rhode Island was struck down in 2009 because the sole claim by the Rhode Island government was “reducing the number of ‘false positives’.” In New Hampshire, that was the initial reason given for passage of the new law, however William Gardner changed the reasoning the rationale to prevent ballot clutter and to ensure that political parties have a current modicum of support. (more…)

Maybe we don’t need parking meters

A couple of days ago the Keene Sentinel published the following Letter to the Editor, and the letter has been submitted to the City Council as a formal communication to be heard at an upcoming Council meeting.

For the last couple of years the city council has been debating whether or not, and by how much to increase parking meter rates, and the Parking Czar recently announced his retirement. The City even sued 6 people who were feeding meters to make a political statement, in hopes of creating a debate on whether or not the City even needs parking meters. (more…)

Dozens Attend “Free the Nipple” on Hampton Beach, Despite Cold & Rain

Free the Nipple Hampton

Free the Nipple 2015, Hampton Beach, NH

After making international headlines and despite a major facebook mistake and bad weather, approximately two-dozen ladies persevered and came out to Hampton Beach today to stand against the social stigma associated with women being topless in public.

Free State Project early mover Jessica Wardell traveled all the way from Henniker to join the topless ladies and their male supporters today and had this to say about the event, “It was lots of fun, there were about 20-30 girls participating, and I didn’t receive any negative criticism. Mostly people were curious about what was going on, and everyone that I talked to seemed to support the idea- especially when I brought up breast feeding.”

The event has already received coverage from the Daily Mail, which focused on the dozens of topless equality events taking place internationally, Reuters, Boston.com, NECN, as well as in Manchester’s Union Leader. Seacoast newspaper “Fosters” was dismissive of the event in their article, calling it “a bust” (yuk, yuk) and claiming only a dozen women came out. How many actually attended? Wardell claims 20-30 ladies in her estimate, with 40-50 additional supporters, including topless males. While more than 1,300 had claimed they were attending on the facebook event, facebook event attendance estimates are almost never close to the actual turnout. Many will indicate they are attending on facebook simply to show support for the event.

Free the Nipple Hampton 2015

What day at the beach would be complete without sand boobies?

The ladies who set up the Hampton event, Kia Sinclair and Heidi Lilley, deserve a lot of credit for doing a great job promoting it and fielding media interviews in advance. Sadly, a major mistake was made early this morning when someone canceled the facebook event! The night prior, one of the admins posted a warning that they were going to cancel the facebook event this morning, but told people that did not mean the event was actually canceled. (Apparently, the FB event was canceled due to heavy trolling of the comments, however this could have been solved by only allowing admins to post.) Of course, only a fraction of the event attendees saw that post, so when the event was cancelled, EVERYONE on the event received a notice this morning from facebook saying the event was canceled with no explanation. This, in addition to the cold, rainy weather was likely a major contributing factor to the turnout. Two dozen topless ladies in bad weather actually seems really good, all things considered!

Organizer Kia Sinclair agreed, saying in a Free Keene-exclusive interview, “I am really happy about the turnout despite the weather. There were actually quite a few topless women around the beach at different times throughout the day. Because of the rain, a lot of women took shelter at the seashell stage. I will say that it was slightly intimidating being stared at and photographed by so many people. Its actually silly that just us being topless made so many people want to take pictures. If the weather was better I don’t think it would have been quite like that. But either way there were a lot of supporters despite the rain.”

Free the Nipple Hampton Beach 2015

Free State Project Early Mover Jessica Wardell, Graham Colson, and FSP Early Mover Matt Genack

Of course, all the mainstream media articles have been showing censored photos, or the ladies shot from behind, because the media are part of the problem. The social stigma against showing women topless runs deep, and mainstream media certainly won’t cross that taboo. Free Keene is not beholden to those rules. Share this article on social media at your own risk – you may get reported and banned for doing so.  UPDATE:  Facebook has targeted this article for censorship, so if you want to share it there, goto this link and hit “share” on it.  That will share a version with a censored pic that uses Graham’s breasts to cover Jessica’s.

Congratulations and thank you to the ladies who went out today despite the weather. Stay tuned to Free Keene for the latest on topless equality.  You can also join the “Free the Nipple” group for NH on facebook here.

Expected next is an as-yet-unscheduled civil disobedience event in Laconia where the city has illegally outlawed female toplessness.

Photo credits in order of appearance: Ashley Stoddard, Miranda Stoddard, Andrew Wardell

NY Cracking Down on Bitcoin Businesses – NH Welcomes You!

Bitcoin NH License Plate

Bitcoiners Love NH

Especially if you love liberty, you’ve got to get out of New York now, while you still can. The so-called “bitlicense” has taken effect in New York and it’s instantly stopping small businesses from being created or driving them out of the state entirely.

To be clear, according to the NY state gang’s own website, businesses who accept bitcoin for payment for product and service do not need to get a bitlicense, but if customers can’t get bitcoin because NY has made it insanely difficult to buy and sell bitcoin, what good is it to accept them?

New York is doing their best to strangle the nascent bitcoin marketplace before it gets out of the cradle. Now only the most obedient and wealthy companies will be able to buy and sell bitcoin in New York. It’s protectionism all the way, and it’s likely not going to get any better for the little guy.

In contrast, New Hampshire has somme of the biggest bitcoiners in the world that are participants in the Free State Project and have moved or will be moving here once the project reaches its goal of 20,000. The FSP even put up a special page on their website touting some of the reasons why New Hampshire is a destination for the bitcoin and liberty-loving community.

Lamassu BVM

The Keene Bitcoin Vending Machine

Since the publication of that list, New Hampshire has become the only place in all of Northern New England (VT, NH, ME) that has a publicly accessible Bitcoin Vending Machine (sadly, BVMs are closing down in New York). It’s at 101 Deals Thrift Store and besides Boston, the Keene BVM is the only option in the region. The Keene Bitcoin Vending Machine is a community service operated by the Shire Free Church. Where will the next BVM pop-up?

No one should really be surprised about the bitcoin crackdown in New York. They call it the Empire State for a reason. The Mercatus Center annual study on the freedom of the fifty states continues to rank New York at #50, below the awful California at #49.

If you love bitcoin and liberty, you should move to New Hampshire. Here’s how to join the Free State Project.

Now you can subscribe to Free Keene via email!

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