The video of last night’s arrests is not yet available – stay tuned here to Free Keene for that. However, the Keene Sentinel’s Kyle Jarvis has written up his report:
Two men affiliated with the libertarian Free Keene movement were arrested Thursday night when they refused to dispose of what appeared to be alcoholic beverages during a Keene City Council meeting.
Ian Bernard, 30, of Keene, who goes by the name Ian Freeman, and Sam Miller, 34, of Keene, who goes by Sam Dodson, were arrested by Keene Police Chief Kenneth J. Meola during a recess of the meeting.
The men were part of a group protesting the city rules on having an open container of alcohol in public.
As the meeting began, approximately eight to 10 people associated with Free Keene.com sat in the audience, some wielding video cameras, including Miller.
About half appeared to be drinking bottled beer, which they’d brought in a small cooler.
About 10 minutes into the meeting, Mayor Philip Dale Pregent announced, “We do not allow alcoholic beverages in council chambers,” and advised the group, “If you don’t dispose of the beverages, you’ll be asked to leave.”
“Who are you talking to specifically?” Miller asked. “Do you see anyone with an alcoholic beverage?”
It’s unclear whether any of the people were actually drinking beer, as one pointed out that the words “not a beer” were printed on the labels.
In a comment posted on sentinelsource.com, Miller (under the name Dodson) said the drinks “were non-alcoholic malt beverages which don’t qualify as alcoholic beverages under city ordinances.
“The mayor and city manager created the disturbance by stopping the meeting, because they didn’t like the free speech that was going on,” Miller said in the post.
On Thursday, Bernard asked the mayor, “Why did you stop your meeting, Dale? Everything was going fine and then you stopped. Why?”
Pregent conferred with the city’s attorney and the city manager, and announced the council was taking a recess.
The council exited the chambers, and a Keene police officer approached the group and engaged members in a discussion about the situation, along with Meola.
The officer asked each member of the group if he could examine his or her beverage. One woman complied, and he determined her bottle contained water.
Miller and Bernard refused to allow the officers to inspect their drinks, however, and were placed in custody.
At one point the officer told Bernard he was “shaking,” and asked him why he was nervous.
“I don’t know, you have a gun,” Bernard replied.
Meola radioed for additional units, and at least two more officers arrived after the chief cleared everyone out of council chambers.
As Miller and Bernard were led out of the room and into the hallway, both in handcuffs, Miller shouted “the City Council should be disgraced!”
Bernard and Miller have each been charged with disorderly conduct.
A third person was arrested outside City Hall in a related incident, said Keene police Sgt. Todd Lawrence.
Monica Granger, 27, of Keene was arrested and also charged with disorderly conduct, although Lawrence didn’t have details on that arrest.
Police may have been aware of a possible situation ahead of time due to a post made by Miller on Free Keene.com Wednesday that announced “the Keene City Council drinking game.”
The post established a set of “rules” that specify when participants were to drink from their beverages, including anytime “there’s a call to order; a bureaucrat claims to do something as ‘the City of Keene’; a vote is unanimous; a council member says the phrase, ‘master plan’; they plan to do something ‘for the children.’ ”
Group members also handed out fliers to members of the audience and the council Thursday, outlining their objective for the evening.
“Some of your society’s ordinances are hurting peaceful people,” said the flier. “You as councilor have the ability to end these infringements on personal freedom.”
The handout addressed the city ordinances about alcohol consumption and open containers in sections of the city code.
“Please do the right thing and repeal these ordinances,” it said at the bottom.
Information about Bernard, Miller and Granger’s bail and court dates was not available.
Cheshire TV broadcast cut
Another scene occurred when a decision was made to cut the audio for the Cheshire TV broadcast of the meeting immediately upon council entering recess.
Cheshire TV Executive Director S. Lee Perkins showed up in council chambers and demanded an explanation.
“In the past we’ve cut audio during executive or nonpublic session,” Perkins told The Sentinel. “But not during a recess.”
Perkins was so angered by the maneuver that he pulled his crew, and the second half of the meeting proceeded without coverage from the station.
City Manager John A. MacLean, in a separate conversation with Perkins in the hallway, acknowledged the decision to cut audio was probably made hastily, and that he would speak to the mayor and council about it.