Keene Cops Attempt Crackdown on Peaceful Festival Attendees!

RiveraIf you’ve been watching the blog here at, you’ve no doubt already seen the multiple Ridley Report entries covering the Keene Police’s attempted crackdown on the Fall 2008 Keene Freedom Festival. Liberty activists and other members of the public were enjoying themselves at Railroad Square this past Sunday. Several organizations were doing outreach, there was a gambling table, live music by the Josh Noone Band (Here’s a live recording of “hypocrisy” from Freedom Fest.) and others, and lots of socializing and networking going on. Then, about an hour into the event, “city prosecutor” Elizer Rivera, showed up in a police uniform with three of his associates, “detective” William Sargent, “lieutenant” Jay Dugay, and “officer” Matt Griffin. Griffin was observing from across the street, while Sargent acted as the silent heavy. Dugay at least had a friendly demeanor even though he was threatening all of the attendees with arrest allegedly for illegally assembling without a permit. In the video footage, you can see I got him to laugh when I caught him saying something particularly silly. Dugay clearly would rather have been doing something else, but is not willing to refuse to follow bad orders.

Moments after their arrival, the police were surrounded by activists, many of whom were armed with video cameras or audio recorders. Even though Dugay claimed that they were responding to an alleged complaint and were investigating whether the Freedom Fest attendees had a permit or not, Rivera’s actions contradicted Dugay’s statements. Rivera was on the hunt for myself and Toby from Free Minds TV. Upon arrival, Rivera made a beeline for me as I was sitting at the gambling table. Before I had a chance to start my audio recorder, he slipped a pink piece of paper called a “COMPLAINT” under my elbow. The allegations are almost completely illegible and it’s not signed. Toby was threatened with arrest if he didn’t take the “COMPLAINT” they were attempting to “serve” him with, so he took it. His was the same as mine. I’m not sure what he’s planning to do yet but I’ll be paying a visit to their “district court” on December 12th at 9am and asking them to see evidence of a complaining, damaged party. I’ll be sure to send them a “NOTICE” in advance to alert them to the terms of my visitation. I’ll post that here when it’s completed.

DugayIt’s probably relevant to note that Toby and I were targeted as alleged “sponsors” of the event, because Free Keene and FMTV were listed as presenting organizations on the event flier that we didn’t create! We didn’t organize the event or even have tables. We were attendees like anyone else, but because of our media prominence, we were targeted. Or perhaps we were targeted because the cops were too lazy to really do some investigation work.

After threatening everyone with arrest and delivering their unwanted paperwork, they left. Armadillo’s Burritos stepped up and provided power for the band and some participants moved their tables off of the bricked area back about 40 feet to a grassy area. Apparently this zone of land can be occupied with no “permit”, as the police did not return to arrest anyone, including the “unlicensed” food vendors.

SargentAt first the cops suggested that their precious “permits” were “needed” in order to sell food and “assemble”. Since they were threatening people with arrest, they naturally got a fairly large number of the people running tables to move a few dozen feet to the east. They drove by a few times after the tables were moved, so they knew that the same event was occurring in a slightly different location. Why then, didn’t they follow through on their threats and arrest the food vendors for continuing to sell? The courageous Kat Kanning from the New Hampshire Free Press also refused to bow to their threats and move her table at all, so why didn’t they arrest her? Why didn’t they bother to come back and threaten her or the food vendors a second time? Allow me to speculate.

First off, we know that government bureaucrats do not like recording devices. Their slimy, coercive activities work best when no one is around to document them and shine the light of day on them. Or in this case, the light of YouTube. They had already been surrounded by multiple activists recording their uninformed, conflicting threats and claims. If they came back, we’d only have had more questions for them, making them look even more inconsistent.

GriffinAdditionally, they got what they wanted. They didn’t really care if people stopped selling food or if the band stopped playing. What they care about is obedience. They want you to be subservient to them. If you bow to their demands, they perceive it as a win. By obeying a ludicrous, arbitrary demand, you are submitting to their so-called “authority”. Those cops knew they had nothing when they were walking up. They certainly couldn’t have arrested the vendors as there were only four of them compared to dozens of us. Besides, then who would clean up the event? Plus, being videoed arresting peaceful people would only erode their precious legitimacy ever more.

While the ideal position for the activists to take would’ve been to stand their ground completely, I understand why people obey. Not everyone is prepared to be thrown into a cage. They have families to take care of and bills to pay. Additionally, cops have training in how to be intimidating, and if you don’t have a lot of experience in dealing with them, your options feel quite limited. That said, as liberty activists continue to have encounters with the police, their ability to stand up for themselves and ask tough questions of the cops will grow. More activists will arrive in NH. More will have recording devices on hand. More will be experienced in dealing with the cops.

Eventually, the government people will learn that it’s in their best interest to leave peaceful people alone. Perhaps some day we can have peace officers again instead of “law enforcement officers”.

Please join in discussion on the Free Keene Forum.

Here’s a video of the event and the police harassment:

Here’s a short video about the event:

Finally, here are some highlights from the audio I captured of the police harassment.

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