“STOP FREE KEENE!!!” Haters Get Coverage In Local Paper

The local group of haters known on Facebook as “STOP FREE KEENE!!!” has been covered by the local newspaper, the Keene Sentinel. Though their facebook group (here’s a facebook page by the same name) claims to have hundreds of members, not a single one was willing to speak to Sentinel reporter Kyle Jarvis. Instead, “the group” released a statement.

Jarvis’ article is fair, though it does claim that Keene liberty activists have engaged in nude protests more than once, which is inaccurate. To my knowledge there has never been a nude event in Keene – toplessness is not nudity. Regardless, here’s the article from the Sunday edition of the Sentinel:

A group started on Facebook late last year is ramping up its efforts to speak out against a group of controversial local activists.
Stop Free Keene, a Facebook group started in October by Keene resident Andrea Parkhurst Whitcomb, has about 200 members who oppose the activities and positions of the group known as Free Keene. The group aims to educate people about what it believes are Free Keene’s motivations.
The group recruits members who are “sick and tired of the negativity from the radical, anti-government, Libertarian anarchists that call themselves (one) of the following: Free Keene, Free Staters, Robin Hooders, Voluntaryist, Libertarians, SHIRE Society, etc., all operating out of a property on 75 Leverett St. in Keene,” according to the page.
Free Keene is the name of a blog whose writers support libertarian philosophies and protest against the prosecution of what they call “victimless” crimes, such as drug possession, open container laws, seat belt and helmet laws, public nudity and parking violations.
Stop Free Keene fliers were recently placed on the windshields of dozens of vehicles parked downtown, offering “important facts citizens should know about Free Keene and its membership.”
Among the claims in the flier:
“Robin Hood of Keene collects donations from citizens who believe the intention of Free Keene is to ‘pay it forward’ and ‘give us back our freedom.’ Robin Hood is not registered (as a) nonprofit with the state,” and members “collect money without claiming income to the government since they are anti-government. They then use the funds at their discretion.”
In the flier, Stop Free Keene members also allege that the people behind Robin Hooding are the same people “that were taking part in nude protests in downtown Keene,” and who were “smoking pot on the common in downtown Keene.” In the past, Free Keene members held pot-smoking rallies in Central Square at 4:20 p.m., the unofficial international smoking time for marijuana users. In 2010, one of the female members bared her breasts while a friend painted on them downtown.
While Stop Free Keene members declined to be interviewed by The Sentinel, Whitcomb provided a statement from the group about its goals.
“We started the flier campaign and outreach activities to inform the public of the truth and to send a message to Free Keene that their ‘peaceful revolution’ histrionics and bullying will no longer be tolerated,” members said in the statement.
The group’s members said they’re “concerned and alarmed by the goals and tactics of Free Keene and its affiliate organizations,” which includes “the desire for the abolishment or privatization of all government agencies and services like police, fire, and judicial systems as well as the complete dismantling of public education and regulatory oversight of food, medicine, and the environment.”
Ian Freeman, one of Free Keene’s more visible members who hosts a radio show called Free Talk Live, said he’s familiar with the group, but said many of its accusations are false.
“It seems like there are a number of people who are very confused about what Free Keene stands for,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re angry because they’ve been given misinformation.”
Some Free Keene members recently created waves in the city by “Robin Hooding,” or filling expired meters before parking enforcement officers can write tickets for those vehicles.
City officials filed a legal complaint against six Free Keene members in May, claiming they harassed and intimidated parking officers while Robin Hooding. Named in the complaint were Kate Ager, James Cleaveland, Graham Colson, Garret Ean, Peter Eyre and Freeman.
City officials asked the court to create a “buffer zone” between the officers and activists, whose stated goal is to shut down the parking enforcement department.
Keene officials filed a second action against the Robin Hooders in September, claiming the city was entitled to reimbursement for the parking officers’ inability to do their work properly, for the costs after one officer quit and for counseling and human resources issues.
Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. dismissed the city’s complaints in December, citing conflicts with the First Amendment. City officials have since appealed that decision to the N.H. Supreme Court.
Freeman said that while Stop Free Keene appears to be gaining more momentum than previous, similar efforts, he’s not concerned about it.
“I see it as a good thing, that there’s enough interest in what’s going on at freekeene.com that someone would create a page in opposition to the site,” he said. “If Free Keene weren’t important, then these groups would not exist. If they didn’t perceive Free Keene to be relevant, they wouldn’t spend the time to do these things, so I take it as a compliment, and I appreciate it.”
It’s ironic that Stop Free Keene members accuse Freeman and other Free Keene members of inciting violence through statements he’s made in the past, such as “death to the state,” Freeman said.
“They misunderstand the message of peace,” he said. “There’s open support of the military in (Stop Free Keene). They are fairly accurate to say that none of (Free Keene’s members) support war mongering around the world and military interventions. Obviously, the support of that is not very peaceful, so we firmly disagree on that point.”
Kyle Jarvis can be reached at kjarvis@keenesentinel.com or 283-0755. Follow him on Twitter @KJarvisKS.

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