This bill would give police the right to tell any person they must stay back at least 30 feet.
A new bill was introduced to the NH House on January 5, 2022 that, if passed, could have serious, far-reaching consequences for 1st amendment auditors and anyone attempting to witness or film police interactions in New Hampshire.
NH HB 1025 was presented to the New Hampshire House Committee on January 19, 2022. Committee members voted unanimously to recommend ITL (inexpedient to legislate) status for this bill. Nineteen of the 21 members were present, with a final vote in favor of ITL: “Yea” – 19 votes; “Nay” – 0 votes; with 2 not voting. You can view the vote in the video below (48:35 – 52:10.)
In October of 2021, nine peaceful people were arrested at a well-attended executive council meeting. It started when armed state goons approached activists Frank “Footloose” Staples and Terese Grinnell and requested they to follow them to a partitioned area in the back of the room. Once out of sight of the packed audience, the thugs arrested Footloose and Terese, causing them to verbally announce what was happening. Prior to being asked to walk out, the two were sitting in the audience quietly, so they are still unsure regarding why they were arrested in the first place, as they didn’t make any noise prior to the arrest. So far, the court process has yet to clarify the situation.
It’s also worth noting that there is an unconstitutional “Supreme Court” of NH order in place prohibiting recording in all parts of state courthouses except the courtrooms themselves. Those restrictions were put in place because of Keene activists recording over a decade ago and haven’t been meaningfully challenged ever since. Kudos to New Hampshire native Footloose for standing up for the right to record and the right to transparency. It was nice to see him back down the armed goon AND he did it while on bail conditions for his previous ridiculous victimless arrests.
Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest on his saga.
Dried Psilocybin Mushrooms, photo from Northspore.com
Thanks to the efforts of activist group Decriminalize Nature, cities across the United States have decriminalized the possession of mushrooms containing psilocybin. From Oakland, CA to nearby Northampton, MA, city councils have voted unanimously to direct law enforcement to essentially ignore people who possess psychedelic mushrooms. Plus, the entire state of Oregon legalized shrooms via a ballot initiative in 2020.
Thus far, however, no state has yet decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms via the legislative process. Perhaps New Hampshire will be the first with HB 1349, a bill that proposes to make the possession of up to 12 grams of psilocybin mushrooms a mere violation with a $100 fine, instead of a felony.
It’s easy to be skeptical that such a change can happen here in New Hampshire, given the state was slow to decriminalize cannabis, but finally did in 2017. However, the tide is shifting on the issue of psilocybin mushrooms. The reason that city councils are voting unanimously to decriminalize shrooms is because they really do help a lot of people with serious mental problems like PTSD and depression. The studies on this are numerous and growing. It is hard for city councilors to deny retired military veterans who testify that psilocybin has cured them of PTSD, or people with terminal diseases who will testify that psilocybin has helped them be at ease with death. Plus, it has long been known that psilocybin mushrooms are safe to use, even compared with cannabis.
Drug Harm to Society and the User
As I pointed out in my testimony in front of the state house Criminal Justice committee on Wednesday, the most relevant thing they should consider is that the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in December of 2020 that using psilocybin mushrooms for religious reasons is legal in New Hampshire. Jeremy Mack was arrested for possession of psilocybin mushrooms and convicted in Superior Court. He appealed, arguing it was his right, as a member of the Oklevueha Native American Church to use psilocybin as part of his religion.
In a UNANIMOUS decision, the NH supremes overturned Mack’s conviction, pointing out that the New Hampshire constitution has stronger religious freedom protections than the United States constitution. While the US constitution protects the right to religion, the NH constitution protects your right to worship God how you choose:
Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession, sentiments, or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace or disturb others in their religious worship. -Article 5, NH Constitution Bill of Rights
Given this amazing court decision, the religious use of psilocybin mushrooms is already fully legal in New Hampshire. Now the legislature should catch up and stop the police from even arresting psilocybin users at all, by passing HB 1349. I am optimistic for its chances. At the hearing on Wednesday, the only person who spoke against the bill was a drug warrior from the NH State Police, who trotted out the usual scare tactics of “DANGER” and “THE CHILDREN”. Though by pointing out that his kids told him shrooms are available for sale in their school, he inadvertently admits the abject failure of his precious War on Drugs.
As we reported here at Free Keene last year, nine peaceful activists were ticketed for violating the unconstitutional ordinance against “picketing” outside the NH governor’s house in Newfields, New Hampshire. All but one of the nine have fought the bullshit charge.
Last month, the first “not guilty” verdict came in the case of Frank “Footloose” Staples. Now, five more of the “Newfields Nine” have also been found not guilty. Libertarian attorney Seth Hipple filed a motion to dismiss where he argued the Newfields picketing ordinance is unconstitutional, but the robed woman ignored those arguments when finding the defendants not guilty, which means the illegal ordinance remains in place.
Here are the videos from the trials of five of the Newfields Nine, both trial dates combined into one video:
Activist Frank “Footloose” Staples, the founder of Absolute Defiance, has been persecuted by the state gang for his peaceful actions near NH “governor” Chris Sununu’s house at 71 Hemlock Ct in Newfields roughly a year ago. Footloose led a series of protests in the park across the street from the Sununu home over unconstitutional executive orders like the statewide mask mandate and other restrictions on business.
Whenever the state gang can identify the leader of a protest, they are inevitably targeted for attack and now Footloose has been arrested and ticketed multiple times. First, he was ticketed for attempting to hold a peaceful candlelight vigil near Sununu’s house, along with eight other people, aka “The Newfields Nine”. The police called this a violation of the town’s “picketing” ordinance, which was written specifically to protect Sununu from that dreaded free speech.
Just over a month later, he was arrested for “disorderly conduct” at a Shire Choir caroling event near Sununu’s house. All he was doing in the incident was speaking. According to police, he spoke too loudly.
In November, he was put on trial for the “picketing” and “disorderly” charges. I was there to record the full trials. The robed woman in Brentwood district court took the cases “under advisement” and ruled nearly two months later. She found Footloose not guilty of “picketing”, but conveniently didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the ordinance. She found him guilty of “disorderly conduct”, a Class B misdemeanor. He plans to appeal, but the next step is sentencing on April 7th at 9am. Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest.
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.