Thank you for coming out today!
My name is CARLA GERICKE-if you want an easy way to remember that, Gericke rhymes with America-and I am running for state senate in District 20, which includes Goffstown and Manchester Wards 3, 4, 10 and 11, and City Hall right here, is part of my district.
The last time I stood here to defend our rights as free people was in June when more than 60 people gathered to raise our voices against the unprecedented, unconstitutional West Side Lockdown. I invited Police Chief Willard to attend the rally, but he declined, saying he didn’t want to answer questions from the media.
We respected the decorum of alderman meeting, and only a few of us testified about how we were negatively affected by the lockdown, whether missing work or being ordered back into our homes at gunpoint. After we left the public portion of the meeting, an alderman called us “disgusting,” and then they voted unanimously in support of the MPD’s actions during the lockdown.
If democracy is to work, it is the job of our representatives to LISTEN to us and to REPRESENT US, not special interests and/or their family and friends-the conflict of interests on the alderman board are truly alarming, but that’s a discussion for another day-election day!
Frankly, the lockdown, and the aldermen’s rude disregard for our concerns, are, in part, what inspired me to run for office. They ignore us when we play by their rules, they insult us when we exercise our First Amendment rights to come and speak publicly and critically about things they should NOT be condoning.
And now they voted in support of encrypting police radios without ANY public input?
Open, honest and transparent policing can not come from actions like encrypting all police communications without any prior public discussion. Public access to information transmitted by police radios is a longstanding, healthy tradition, and to unilaterally make these communications encrypted, while increasing the use of military tactics and equipment on the streets of our city is unacceptable. It is unacceptable in a free and open society, and it is unacceptable in our hometown!
When social media lit up about “A Scanner Darkly”, the MPD issued an unsigned letter saying there was “nothing nefarious” behind their decision. As an activist who has spent the past decade working on online privacy issues, I find it astounding that when citizens use encryption, we are accused of having something to hide.
Let me remind you: WE, the people, have a right to PRIVACY, the right NOT to be monitored and surveilled by our own government. Choosing who and what another person knows about you is a fundamental part of personal freedom and human dignity. The STATE, and the POLICE, who work for US, do not have a right to privacy in the execution of their public duties. As your senator, I will always make my votes public, and will explain my reasoning for how I voted.
I’m hopefully the alderman will reconsider and reverse course like they did after the public outcry about filming the reality TV show COPS in Manchester. This is their chance to fix a secret, backroom decision, which, ironically-you can’t make this stuff up!-relates to the transparency, openness and accountability of our public officials. I hope they do the right thing tonight, but I am not holding my breath.
Now, while I have the soapbox, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I was raised in South Africa in a diplomatic household, which means I lived abroad in the US, Sweden and Brazil growing up, but spent most of my upbringing in South Africa under apartheid, a police state. I finished high school when I was 16. I finished law school when I was 21. I took and passed the California Bar Exam-the hardest in the country-soon after emigrating to Silicon Valley in 1996. I have been an American citizen since 2000.
Perhaps that’s it? Perhaps REALLY studying the history of the founding of this country, its Constitution, its Bill of Rights is the reason I care so much? Perhaps it is because I have experienced a police state before, and know the warning signs:
Things like secret police actions, lockdowns, daytime curfews, illegal, unconstitutional checkpoints, police militarization, police brutality and police murders-yes, even here in New Hampshire, a mentally unstable man was shot and killed just a few weeks ago in Claremont, we all saw the state trooper’s beatdown of a surrendering man in Nashua, and then there’s the video that recently surfaced, eighteen months after the fact, of a MPD officer pepper spraying people cuffed to a bench inside the police station-and, of course, the problem of government surveillance-not only of people like me, an activist sounding the alarm, but YOU. They’re watching YOU too.
Last year, I was involved with the Free Library Project at the Kilton Library in West Lebanon. Long story short, the library was running a TOR node, which allows people to search anonymously online. The Department of Homeland Security tried to shut it down, claiming encryption can only be used for nefarious purposes. You see where I am going with this, don’tcha?
Anyway, some pre-teens wanted to join the protest, but before I would let them hold any signs-things like "Big Brother is Watching!"-I wanted to make sure they understood the issue. I explained to them: Imagine your mom can sneak into your room at any time and read your diary without telling you, and then one day, she wants to bust you for something, and so she uses that information against you and you are not allowed to complain or defend yourself against the original, invasive search. Does that sound fair? “No!” the kids yelled and grabbed signs, chanting: “Hands Off Our Library!” Does this sound like America to you?
You get it, right? The state wants to know everything about YOU, but they don’t want you to know anything about THEM, even though that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of how a functioning constitutional republic is supposed to work.
Look, I can stand here all day and raise the alarm about the encroaching police state, but I’m results-driven, and have some solutions and suggestions:
First: Film every police encounter you see, whether it’s your own traffic stop or you just notice someone being hassled. Don’t interfere or get involved. Just film it. It is protected speech, trust me, I know (brief history of my wiretapping court case). If they take your camera or phone, which they still routinely do as a woman told me at the last rally happened to her this year-call me and I will hook you up with a great lawyer specializing in making them pay-well, unfortunately, the taxpayers pay, but we’ll get into that in a moment. I received more than $57K in my settlement.
Secondly: Demand that your LEOs start wearing body cams. In Rialto, CA, in the first year after body cams were introduced, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%. Many departments actual welcome the cameras, saying it helps them too. Funny what transparency does, and how it benefits everyone as long as they are behaving properly.
Third: We need to end the war on drugs. It’s a war on people. We need to treat people with addiction with compassion, as patients not criminals. The police use the war on drugs to justify their pay increases and overtime, their tanks and military gear, their asset forfeiture-which is literally when they take your stuff, never charge you with a crime, and then tell you to sue them if you want it back. The forfeited assets go straight into the department’s kitty. It’s called “policing for profit,” and while some good steps have been taken recently here in NH, we still have work to do. We need to close the federally funded equitable sharing loophole. As your senator, I will make this a priority.
Fourth: More community policing and changes to police culture, meaning the Thin Blue Line that thinks it’s OK to protect "bad apples”. I mean REAL community policing, on horses, bikes and on foot. LEOs MUST live in the town they serve. Think about recruitment ads for police jobs: who would you rather have policing your streets? The person who is attracted to community policing (talking to people, deescalating, trained in body language, etc.), or the person attracted to the thrash-metal recruitment video of cops clad in all-black, wearing balaclavas, jumping out of turreted armored vehicles with their guns pointed? I know I prefer the peace keepers.
Fifth: Real accountability–NO qualified immunity for police officers in civil cases. Police should carry private liability insurance, like doctors and lawyers do. Police should be held to higher standard, or, it blows my mind to even have to say this, at a minimum, THE SAME standard as citizens, definitely NOT a lower standard. Neill Franklin, a courageous and long-serving officer of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition once said of “officer safety”: “You signed up for a dangerous job, i.e. there is an assumption of risk and your first priority is to protect those you are sworn to protect, NOT yourself.” If mob boss Whitey Bulger can be arrested peacefully, during the day in a parking lot, why not treat SUSPECTED nonviolent drug offenders the same way instead of invading their homes at night with the sole goal to terrify and disorient?
Have you ever wonder how an authoritarian state arises? How the apartheid regime manifested? The answer is simple: When good people surrender to fear and do nothing when the state starts to overstep its bounds.
The state is overstepping its bounds every day, in more and more alarming ways, and the encryption of the MPDs radios is just one more example. I am not willing to let it go without a fight.
Who here has seen The Matrix? Who do you root for? Neo? Or Agent Smith? If you root for Neo, someone who is fighting for freedom, why, in the real world, in real life, do so many people still support the Agent Smiths of the world?
As Commander William Adama says in BattleStar Galactica:
“There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”
I’ll leave you with not my words, but the words from a former NH police officer who served in WWII and the Gulf War, who commented on Facebook regarding the West Side Lockdown:
"Let me tell you something. The term ‘lock down’ makes my fricken blood boil. Prisons get ‘locked down’, not neighborhoods… The ability to move about freely is one of our greatest freedoms… Does it make it easier for the police if the entire citizenry is locked down so that they may methodically search for a bad guy? Absolutely! Would it likewise make it easier for the police if they were allowed to search our homes and property without a warrant? Absolutely you will make it easier. Would it make it easier for the police if they were allowed to beat us and question us for hours on end until we were so tired that we confessed? Of course!
The problem is we do not exist to make things easier for the police. The police exist to make things easier for us.”
This is a battle for the soul of our city. We can either surrender to more and more unaccountable police power-funded largely by the federal government to turn our local police into a standing army with tanks and teargas and a license to kill-or we can take a stand and say, Enough is enough, this is not the future we want! Stop! Just stop!
We have a choice to make, Manchester, and I hope on November 8th, you will choose me!