It could have been worse. A few weeks ago at the Finance, Organization, and Personnel committee meeting, the councilors voted 4-1 to raise parking meter rates by 50% and also to increase the long-term parking permit fees. The good news is they rejected the city parking department’s request for later enforcement hours as well as increasing parking fines. The full council voted 14-1 on the same recently. The one dissenting vote was not because the dissenter, outgoing councilor Kris Roberts is against parking enforcement – he’s mad the enforcers didn’t get everything they wanted from the council.
Parking Rates in Keene Now Up 50%
By no means is this a pro-liberty decision by the Keene city council, but perhaps the hundreds of petition signatures by business owners downtown and their clients had some impact on the council’s ultimate decision to grow the parking department’s collections, but not to the level the enforcers wanted.
As I reported earlier this week, Robin Hood of Keene has again been victorious in court as the city of Keene’s suits have failed. The news got covered in a bunch of news sources via the AP pickup as well as articles in the Keene Sentinel, Union Leader, and the front page of the Concord Monitor!
It has been a long road, but thanks to free speech attorney Jon Meyer and judge John C Kissinger of the Cheshire superior court, Keene’s Robin Hooders are again victorious! Nearly two years ago, the same court dismissed the two cases brought against the charitable meter-feeders, alleging we were “threatening, intimidating, and harassing” their parking enforcement officers and demanding a 50ft floating, constitution-free buffer zone to protect them.
Robin Hooders Victorious – AGAIN.
The city appealed to the NH supreme court which ultimately upheld the superior court’s dismissal except for one part. They affirmed the lower court’s ruling to dismiss based on free speech grounds, but said the superior court needed to look at the request for the “buffer zone” injunction separately from the allegations of “tortious interference”, “civil conspiracy”, “negligence”, and the demand for financial compensation, all of which the city failed to prove to the court’s satisfaction.
Thankfully, the superior court agreed with attorney Meyer’s arguments and denied the city’s request for any injunction against us whatsoever! This effectively kills their case, unless they decide to continue spending ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money to appeal this latest failure to the NH supreme court.
The city, which had originally wanted a 50 foot floating buffer zone around each enforcer that would prevent all speech and recording by the Robin Hooders, had whittled that down over the 2.5 years this has been in court to a 5-10ft zone that would only be temporary and only if the parking enforcer requested said distance from the Robin Hooder. Mind you, we generally do not wish to be so close to them – it’s best to fill meters at a greater distance, so as to have enough time to fill the meter and leave the Robin Hood calling card on the windshield, BEFORE the parking enforcer catches up to us and gets ahead. That would mean she could successfully write a ticket if she gets ahead, so having distance is my goal, but the enforcer is constantly trying to close that gap, so sometimes we do get within ten feet. That would mean that such an injunction (besides being unconstitutional) would also prevent us from Robin Hooding, as anytime the enforcer managed to close the gap, we’d be subject to arrest for “contempt of court”.
James Cleaveland, Attorney Jon Meyer, Ian Freeman
In a fifteen-page order issued on 11/20, Kissinger writes of the city’s request for injunction:
The Court cannot conceive of any more narrow or alternative relief that would provide any meaningful protection to the PEOs without running afoul of the Respondents’ First Amendment rights…the government interests here are not sufficient to warrant an infringement on the Respondents’ First Amendment rights. Any injunction requiring a buffer zone of any meaningful distance would require a significant change in the method used by the Respondents to disseminate their protected speech.
So, despite the city’s interests in their parking enforcement continuing unabated, their significantly-reduced proposal for injunction is still beyond what is constitutionally permissible, and further, the court could not think of any lesser restrictions that would pass constitutional muster.
Kissinger, in his conclusion, does remind the city that if Robin Hooders’ conduct is rising to the level of violating criminal statutes, that they can bring such charges. Of course, the reason they never have brought criminal harassment or assault charges is because Robin Hooders are peaceful. There is zero evidence of “harassment, threatening, or intimidating” – the claims the city has long libeled us with throughout this lawsuit.
In a classic case of projection, the people in this who are actually harassing, threatening, and intimidating others are the parking enforcers. They harass, threaten, and intimidate the good motorists of Keene six days a week by giving them threatening tickets for just trying to do some business downtown. Those tickets threaten, intimidate, and harass their victims into paying their fines so as to avoid the threat of having their car stolen. Talk about intimidation! This is why Robin Hood of Keene exists – we are here to save people from having to deal with the city’s threats. That’s always been the primary motivation, at least for me. I certainly don’t speak for everyone.
The poor, innocent parking enforcers.
If the parking enforcers don’t like being called out for their threatening, intimidating, and harassing behavior, they should get jobs in the productive economy. Until the city council ends the parking department and turns over the spaces to downtown businesses to decide how to administer, per market forces, Robin Hooding will continue to rescue peaceful motorists from the threats of the city government.
The city has 30 days to appeal this latest failure. Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest.
The lawsuit brought originally in 2013 by the “City of Keene” vs several Robin Hooders (people who feed expired meters to save folks from parking tickets) continues onward, with both sides having filed legal memorandums with the Cheshire superior court after a second round of “evidentiary hearings”.
First up, heroic pro-bono free speech attorney Jon Meyer filed this 12-page legal memorandum. Meyer points out that the city’s demand for an injunction against the Robin Hooders would clearly be unconstitutional as it’s directed at specific people and speech. He cites various case law for the court to review, and points out the obvious discrimination and hypocrisy:
If the Defendants had been engaging in demonstrations for the purpose of expressing their support of PEO’s, or were making comments supportive of their job performance, this proceeding would never have been initiated. The videos and other testimony show that other private citizens have emphatically expressed their support for the PEO’s, and their opposition to the Robin Hooders, in some cases physically. No injunction is sought against any of them because they do not convey the Robin Hood message.
Meyer further invalidates the claims of the city that somehow Robin Hooding is a breach of the peace, as claimed by the city’s suit:
James Cleaveland, Attorney Jon Meyer, Ian Freeman
There is a criminal statute, RSA 644, which addresses and prohibits virtually every type of breach of peace. The fact that no breach of peace, disorderly conduct, or assault prosecution has been brought against any of the Robin Hood Defendants for Robin Hooding is compelling evidence that this asserted interest is not significantly implicated by their activities.
The only episodes in the record that amounted to anything approaching a disturbance of the peace were several incidents in which Robin Hooders were physically assaulted by third parties. Several instances over several years of hundreds if not thousands of Robin Hooding demonstrations hardly amounts to a substantial problem. 2 And even if it were substantial, it would violate the First Amendment to restrict the Defendants’ expression activity because of illegal assaults against them by third parties. This is a classic example of a “heckler’s veto” which is antithetical to the First Amendment because it puts speech, particularly unpopular speech at risk, and, in effect, rewards mob or individual violence.
Meyer points out that just because the parking enforcers may be uncomfortable with some of what has been said to them on the streets does not give the city the right to restrict freedom of speech: (more…)
The city of Keene has (again) quietly stuck their proposed parking rate and fine AND hours-of-enforcement increases into tonight’s FOP committee agenda. It’s item #8 here.
This may be our last chance to stop this proposed increase – as you may recall, at previous hearings petitions with hundreds of signatures of people downtown, including dozens of business owners opposed the proposed increases. This has not stopped the city from continuing to return and push the idea again and again.
Tonight the decision will be in the hands of the FOP committee which meets starting at 6:30pm on the 2nd floor of city hall at 3 Washington St. in Keene.
Committee meetings are the only time they will actually hear from the people on any matter – when this goes to the full council there will be no further public comment.
Please come out tonight and let these councilors on the committee know that parking meters and fines hurt downtown businesses, or however else you’d like to frame your thoughts on the issue.
See you there!
Here’s an editorial published in Sunday’s Sentinel about the upcoming superior court decision on the Robin Hood of Keene case. Right out of the gate, the Sentinel poorly describes Robin Hooding, saying:
“the Robin Hooders are libertarian-minded activists involved with, or following, the Free Keene podcasts that emerged as an offshoot of the Free State Project.”
Robin Hooding was started in 2009 by Lauren Canario. While she is a Free State Project early mover, she moved here before Free Keene started in 2006. Further, Free Keene is not related to the FSP except for the fact that some of the bloggers (not all) are FSP early movers. The Free State Project exists to convince liberty lovers to move to New Hampshire and get active. After that, it has no influence over what those activists do here in NH. I created Free Keene to report on activism in the area and news of interest to potential movers. There are no Free Keene podcasts, though some bloggers at Free Keene do have shows – they were not created at my behest – Free Keene is just one way for them to get more visibility for their show(s).
They also walk along with the officers, calling them names, advising them to quit and filming them for the Free Keene website.
Who is they? If one person has called the parking enforcers names years ago, does that mean all Robin Hooders behaved the same way then or now? Certainly not. I’ve never seen any Robin Hooder call them names. There’s an allegation that Graham Colson called one a name, but he is no longer Robin Hooding. There’s video of Chris Cantwell doing it from years ago, but he also has never been an official Robin Hooder. If this libelous accusation were true, there’d be plenty of video evidence. None of which was ever shown (besides Cantwell) at any court hearing. Just because the government agents say something is true, doesn’t mean it’s true. What a shame the Sentinel never bothered to investigate the city’s lies before regurgitating them publicly.
At the same time, it seems wildly unfair to subject hardworking city employees to frequent abuse. One officer has already quit and others say they’ve needed counseling to deal with the frequent bullying.
Again, what frequent abuse and bullying? Where’s the evidence for these claims? This is just plain false. Besides, what about the frequent bullying of Keene’s motorists by the parking enforcers? Why is that okay? They are threatening and hurting people every day, but they get a pass because it’s their job? Also the counseling only came AFTER the city filed their lawsuit, which was the same time the parking enforcers stopped being friendly. It’s all a lie and the Sentinel has bought it hook, line, and sinker.
Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest on the Robin Hood saga.