After three arrests of liberty-loving activists simply for recording video, dozens of activists showed up at Weare PD to try to hold these jokers accountable and we were of course, ignored – mostly. They actually closed the public part of their office for the day prior to our arrival! The cops even refused to come and respond to a call in their own parking lot. Later, they actually ordered pizza for us, had it delivered in my name, (I was the one who had called the department on my cell phone and requested they come out) and had the pizza company write on the boxes: “PORKY PIG SPECIAL” and “Compliments of your Friends @ WEARE PD”
Some people who appeared to be firemen flipped us the bird. Video to come. Pot was smoked and fire burned. One activist was having a cookout over an open flame right out in front of the police station. The PD was left with bushels of flowers adorning their front door (click for video). It was an interesting day. Here’s the Union Leader’s Greg Kwasnik reporting on the event:
More than 30 people gathered in front of the Weare police station Wednesday to protest the department, which has in the last 13 months arrested and charged three people with felony wiretapping for recording police activity.
Waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and signs reading “We Will Record,” protesters argued that the department overstepped its authority by bringing charges against people who recorded officers performing public duties.
“I don’t think they like being confronted by informed citizens that know their rights. I think that many of them are corrupt and they have a bad reputation,” said Bill Domenico, of Manchester. “If it’s on the job, it’s on the record.”
Domenico was referring to three highly-publicized arrests that have angered many civil liberties groups, including the libertarian Free State Project. The first arrest, on March 24, 2010, involved Free State Project member Carla Gericke, who was charged with felony wiretapping after videotaping a traffic stop on Route 114.
As Gericke was being processed in the Weare police station, police arrested a second person, William Rodriguez, for allegedly recording with his cell phone in the lobby. Rodriguez denies having a cell phone in his possession at the time.
While police later dropped the charges against Gericke and Rodriguez, police made a third wiretapping arrest following a July 10 traffic stop. During that traffic stop, William Alleman — who had just left a Free State Project gathering — made a phone call to a voicemail recording service as officer Brian Montplaisir approached his vehicle.
Alleman, who was charged Feb. 22 under the state’s felony wiretapping law, was arraigned April 5. He is awaiting a trial date.
“It’s been an unacceptable, unauthorized disruption of my life by public employees who don’t want to be held accountable,” Alleman said. “As you can see right here today, they’re not here. They ran away because they don’t want to be confronted.”
Alleman was referring to the Weare police station, which was closed at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. A sign on the front door asked visitors to call the department’s business line, or 911 in case of an emergency.
The protesters outside the station said police did not want to be held responsible for their actions.
“The police don’t like accountability,” said David Bodhi of Manchester, a Free State Project transplant from Indiana. “When their actions start to be closely scrutinized by the citizenry, they change their behavior.”
Despite the repeated pleas by protesters, Police Chief Gregory Begin declined to open a dialogue with his critics Wednesday.
“I can’t comment on open cases, and I’m not going to debate on statutes that may be changing, and that’s all they want to do,” Begin said in an interview before the protest. “I’m just going to let them do what they came here for. They have the right to demonstrate, to protest.”
Legislators are considering House Bill 145, which would allow people to make an audio or video recording of any public official while they perform their official duties.
William Rodriguez, who Weare police charged with felony wiretapping in March 2010, said officers should expect closer scrutiny in the future.
“Maybe a lot of folks aren’t aware of their rights and used to let them walk all over them, but they need to know that that time is over,” Rodriguez said. “They need to straighten up their act and do the job they were hired to do properly, or move on.”