Manchester and Free Speech – Like Oil and Water

It’s like deja vu all over again. The last blog I wrote for Free Keene detailed how the MPD had chosen to ignore the constitution in favor of the enforcement of a city ordinance, specifically a park curfew. This time they’re using a zoning ordinance about signs to squelch protest.

Under the banner of the Manchester branch of the Peaceful Streets project, local activists have been taking it upon themselves to warn their neighbors about the dangers of suspicionless checkpoints. Here is some video from a few of the checkpoints we’ve previously attended over the last few years years.

What’s interesting is that we had done over a half dozen of these events with no hassle at all. The first inkling we had that there might be an issue with the projector came during the protest of a Romney rally last November. The management of Verizon Wireless Arena decided they didn’t like our message and called the police. This was the first time that the possibility of a city ordinance violation had been brought up to us. It turned out that our battery was dying and we ended up shutting down and heading home before the issue was resolved. Friday night was the first time the projector had been deployed in Manchester since the Romney event.

It’s also worth noting that recently the Verizon Wireless Arena has been using the police as advertising / marketing agents at taxpayer expense.

As the Occupy New Hampshire case heads to the NH state supreme court, we begin down the path of a case that is similar in many respects. While in that case the State posited that it had a compelling interest in keeping people out of the park after 9pm because the grass and trees would die and anarchy would reign supreme, it’s diffuclt to imagine the tripe the they’re likely to trot out in this case.

We do plan to fight this one and are still in the process of figuring out the best way to do that. The Green Beam has set up a gofundme if you’d like to help with the defense. The summons cites sections 9.03 and 9.07. I’ll continue to post updates as they become available.

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