In the most pleasantly surprising news of the year, the Keene Sentinel has broken a story about Keene Police lieutenant Jason Short advocating mass civil disobedience regarding the city’s recently passed mask mandate. Though the Sentinel piece appears to want to shock readers with Short’s opinions, those of us who have engaged with him over more than a decade of peaceful civil disobedience activism are proud to see his evolution.
The Sentinel reveals that Short posted the following to his facebook account:
“Remember the bad guys in movies don’t know they are bad, they think they are doing the ‘right thing’ for the benefit of society. It is only when the ‘good guy’ stands up to them that they realize they are wrong. Citizens need to stand up and stop simply complying to this nonsense mandates.”
The rest of the Sentinel piece is designed to gin up outrage that a police officer dared to openly speak against the city gang’s precious mask ordinance. However, surprisingly, Keene Police chief Steven Russo actually covered for Short rather than throwing him under the bus, explaining to the reporter that it’s Short’s right to express himself as Short doesn’t lose the right to free speech just because he works for the state. Russo claims, “Lt. Short will enforce the Ordinance consistent with my guidance and in the same spirit as all of our Officers regardless of his personal feelings”, but doesn’t say what his “guidance” is. There is a good chance Russo’s “guidance” is to encourage Keene police to use discretion regarding enforcing the ordinance.
Many people, including those railing against Short online for expressing independent thoughts, simply do not understand that all police officers have discretion. Discretion is the ability for each officer to decide whether to enforce any given statute or ordinance, with few exceptions. As I understand it, generally, police officers are only obligated to enforce certain violent felonies. So, even if Russo tells Short to enforce the mask mandate, Short can still use his discretion and the worst than can be done to him is he’d likely get a stern talking-to or perhaps reassigned to the night shift.
Keene Police Officer Jason Short, Civil Disobedience Advocate
City mob boss Elizabeth Dragon was even approached by Sentinel reporter Caleb Symons for comment on whether Short could be disciplined, but she wisely refused to return his calls, as she probably doesn’t want to admit there’s nothing the city council can do if the police refuse to enforce their ordinance. From what I understand, Short isn’t the only police officer who feels as he does.
A decade ago, Short was the antagonist during Derrick J Freeman’s “Victimless Crime Spree“, arresting Free Keene blogger Derrick J in Central Square for open possession of cannabis. In 2014, as the DEA was raiding then-Main Street business Phat Stuff, Keene police were running cover for them and I confronted Short outside the business about his role in the situation. During the conversation, I asked him how he feels about a productive downtown business being destroyed by the DEA, and he told me, “what I feel don’t matter”. I responded that it does matter, which is why I asked him for his opinion.
Now, more than half a decade later, Short appears to have changed his tune, and for the better. He’s not only expressing his opinion about bad law publicly, he’s also taking the correct position – that the mask mandate is evil and needs to be disobeyed. That’s because good people disobey bad laws and good cops refuse to enforce them.
If Jason Short can go from bad guy to good guy, maybe there is hope. Whether or not activists like Derrick J have had a positive influence on Short over the years, kudos to Short for taking a stand.
Massive crowd watching speakers at BLM event in Keene.
Finally, average people are showing concern for police violence! It only took thousands of innocent bodies piled up over many years and countless millions of peaceful people arrested for victimless crimes before enough people got mad enough to do something. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops who brazenly choked him to death for several minutes while being recorded on video as Floyd tried to plead with the gang of killers and alert them that he could not breathe.
However, what happened to Floyd was the spark that lit a flame – literally, with large numbers of people coming out from their homes to join in protests demanding police accountability and railing against police violence, which is used more often against blacks, but affects all of the human race. The protestors even torched the Minneapolis third precinct station after police abandoned the property after days of protests outside, which was an amazing victory and was refreshing to see the people’s understandable anger targeted where it was actually deserved.
KPD’s Cristina Paterno and Cheshire Sheriff Eli Rivera hear you, but will they listen and change?
Sadly, some protests have also been sullied by violence committed against people and the destruction of private property in many cities. The destruction of innocent-owned private property has been significant and tragic. However, New Hampshire has thankfully avoided these losses, likely because people here are much more free to defend their property from attackers, with weapons if necessary. The people who are targeting private property are unwelcome among the peaceful protestors and are likely a mix of police acting as agents-provocateur and opportunists who are looking to destroy and/or steal.
Today in Keene, several hundred people gathered in Central Square at 4pm today for a Black Lives Matter protest that rivaled the BLM event from Manchester, NH on Saturday. After nearly fifteen years in Keene, I’ve never seen anything this big in Central Square, ever. Today’s event was probably 4-5 times larger than the biggest 420 rallies in Central Square more than a decade ago.
Large crowd in Keene kneels, fist up.
The honking from drivers was nearly non-stop including multiple large trucks and tractor trailers laying on their horns to cheers from the excited crowd. Keene’s police chief Steven Russo and Cheshire County’s sheriff Eli Rivera were both present in the heart of the park holding signs saying, “We hear you” and taking pictures with people. To their credit, this was a smart move. By physically joining the protestors, the police acting like humans can diffuse anger and deescalate tensions. However, talk is cheap, and “hearing” isn’t the same as “listening”, and it’s certainly not actually changing their behavior.
Will the Keene police stop arresting peaceful people for victimless crimes? It’s the insane war on drugs and other prohibitions that have resulted in people of all shapes and sizes and colors being attacked, imprisoned, and murdered by police nationwide for decades. Keene’s police have made a myriad of drug busts and assisted the DEA in raiding a popular local head shop on Main Street several years ago. A stroll through past posts at Keene Cop Block shows just a fraction of the lives the local police have ruined in the name of their authoritarian prohibitions. Are they going to now see how they harmed their brothers and sisters, issue an apology, change their ways and send back the BEARCAT armored tank to its manufacturer?
I sure hope so, for their sake, but then again, I’m an optimist.
On Thursday evening, a very large crowd turned out to speak to the city council’s FOP committee on a proposed resolution to make Keene a “sanctuary city”. I’m happy to say that not a single police state xenophobe spoke during the hearing. Every speaker was pro-immigrant. Here’s video of the entire hearing:
Earlier this year, Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera made headlines by announcing his policy to not assist the federal government with immigration enforcement activities targeting peaceful migrants. That made Cheshire county into NH’s only “sanctuary county”.
The resolution is well-intended and everyone in the packed council chambers supported it, but it doesn’t go far enough. First, it allows for Keene police to assist the federal immigration enforcement if they merely have a warrant, which aren’t hard for police to get with rubber-stamp courts. Second, the city’s new manager, Elizabeth Dragon, is claiming the city government can’t tell police what to do, per some state statute. That’s not exactly the whole truth, since the council is able to pass certain ordinances that the police are directed to enforce. While they may not legally be able to tell a police chief what not to enforce, they certainly have the ability to have the city manager fire anti-immigrant police, don’t they? Perhaps there are union protections in place to make that difficult, I don’t know.
MALIC Center Imam Will Coley Speaks to the Committee
According to the Keene Sentinel, new Keene police chief Steven Russo has not specifically commented on the resolution’s proposals, though the group behind the proposal, KIRP, has said they’ve had a positive meeting with him.
At Thursday evening’s FOP meeting, after 100% support from the speakers there and many rounds of applause for those who spoke, the councilors on the committee voted 5-0 to give more time to the issue, specifically asking city staff to meet with KIRP and finalize the language of the proposed resolution.
Here’s the article appearing in today’s Keene Sentinel about tonight’s drinking game. It reports that on tonight’s agenda is a letter from Keene native Heika Courser regarding the repeal of the open container ordinance, so the councilors will be addressing the issue. All indicators show a larger turnout of activists is expected tonight than last time. Here’s the text of the piece by “Sentinel Staff”:
City officials say they have made no special plans if a Free Keene group attends another Keene City Council meeting to play a “drinking game.”
The group’s website, FreeKeene.com, says that the “drinking game: round two” will be held at tonight’s meeting. (more…)
Over the last several days the video and story about Keene High’s “school resource officer” Joshua English attacking and tackling a student for allegedly vaping in the school’s bathroom, has gone viral. However, there’s more to the story than cop-attacks-teen, though this incident alone is bad enough. In case you haven’t heard about this incident, according to other students the young man who was viciously attacked by English was vaping in the bathroom and English confronted him. The student heroically refused to identify himself to the armed, intimidating, uniformed man and walked out of the bathroom. Moments later, English bursted out of the bathroom and tackled the peaceful student, subduing him with a shocking level of force.
Thankfully, another brave student pulled out their phone upon hearing a commotion from inside the bathroom and captured the entire tackling on video:
Understandably many are outraged at the officer’s use of force over a simple vaping incident, but that’s not really what caused English to fly into a violent rage. The young victim’s real crime was disobedience. The youth had the gall to act as though he were a free man, walking away from a threatening, potentially violent anti-nicotine nuisance and attempting to go about his day. English has his “authority” to worry about and can’t possibly be seen by others as someone who one could just walk away from without consequence, so he used violence to dominate the young man in front of a crowd of people.
Keene Police have been making headlines nationwide for proclaiming that English was fully within police guidelines for his use of force against the “subject” – yes, that’s actually how they refer to the rest of us non-gang members. Keene police chief Steve Russo exonerated English in a recent release, saying his agent had not violated any department guidelines or state statutes, but Russo said further that English was worried the young man was a potential trespasser, claiming to the Union Leader, “At that point, he didn’t even know he was a student”.
Keene Police Officer Joshua English
Perhaps English needs to have his memory tested. While it would certainly be hard to remember previously seeing one random male in a school with over one thousand students, how could English forget that he’d written the same young man a ticket for “possessing tobacco products” two weeks prior? The student’s father showed the proof of this claim to WHDH-TV in Boston.
While Keene Police are trying to make English look like a hero protecting the school from a potential intruder, the reality is much different. In KPD’s official release, they claim the Keene Police and the school district are, “committed to maintaining the safety and security of the students…which may regrettably include when necessary, the use of force to secure that safety.” There were no allegations the young victim was doing anything violent. He was allegedly vaping in the bathroom. No one was threatened by the young man. The only dangerous, violent threat in Keene High School that day was Keene Police’s Joshua English. Who is he?
Don’t expect the mainstream media to do a modicum of digging about English. Otherwise you might have already discovered English shot a man to death in Keene back in 2010. Free Keene blogger and former police officer Brad Jardis covered the story here when English was found to be within the state’s use-of-force guidelines in the shooting incident. In that case, the man who was shot by English was holding a knife to a woman’s throat, so our blogger Jardis agreed with the shooting as necessary. However, is it really the best decision to assign one of the only officers at KPD who has violently taken another human being’s life the duty of being the high school’s cop? (more…)