From the start of this lockup, I’ve been meaning to write a weekly column titled “Notes from Six Feet Away,” and, for years, I have wanted to do a weekly round up of my activism, and thoughts on the news and my related social media posts, so here we are. This column will become the Friday feature on The Art of Independence.
Police Brutality and Open Government
Back in 2014, I settled my wiretapping lawsuit against the Town of Weare, having prevailed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals (the one right under the Supreme Court). This landmark First Amendment case, Gericke vs. Begin et al, protects YOUR right to record every police encounter you see. And you should. Every damn time! Especially since I learned last week that even though police departments across NH are now spending tens of thousands of dollars buying body cams, these recordings are NOT generally subject to public disclosure under our Right to Know NH laws. Shocking! And as YOUR Senator, I will work 💯% to increase government transparency and accountability for YOU.
Hell, if y’all want, I’ll wear a Go Pro to the Senate daily, and live-stream “How the Sausage is Made”! Love this idea? Donate to my District 20 Senate race today!
Right-to-Know Victories: Fenniman Overturned
The NH Supreme Court decided three vital Right-to-Know cases this week, and overturned Fenniman, a huge victory for open government proponents. Fenniman was a terrible case that shielded “internal personnel practices” from scrutiny and was much abused by the authorities to hide malfeasance and deflect from oversight or reform.
From Right-to-Know NH: “The NH Supreme Court issued 2 rulings today in the other 2 cases tried the same day as the Salcetti v. Keene case. In those rulings, they overturned the earlier Fenniman ruling, interpreting “internal personnel practices” more narrowly and eliminating the categorical denial of public access to records subject to the “internal personnel practices” exemption. Here are links to the rulings:
- 2019-0135, Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Portsmouth
- 2019-0206, Union Leader Corporation & a. v. Town of Salem
This is a big step forward for RTK in NH. In particular, it means that personnel investigations are no longer categorically exempt from public disclosure and instead a balancing of the public interest with the privacy interests of the parties will be done by the courts.”
Says David Taylor, one of the lawyers from Right-to-Know NH about the third RTK case heard this week, 2019-0217, Marianne Salcetti & a. v. City of Keene: “This morning the NH Supreme Court released a less formal opinion in the Salcetti v. Keene case. While it is mixed – partly affirmed, partly reversed, partly vacated, partly remanded – there are some good wins in there. Mostly, the students requests were ruled to have been improperly read too narrowly as ‘lists’ when they should have not been. Perhaps the biggest win was a ruling that the $300 charge to access email records was improper and that those records should be free to inspect! The redacted police officers’ names ruling was remanded to the superior court. Lost on the need for a written and signed request formally, but they hinted a more proper case might win in the future. Similarly for the delays. In the end they reprimanded Keene, mostly, for wasting all the time and energy in this case. Overall, I’m happy with the ruling.
Questions for Mayor about Militarized Police Response to Peaceful Protests
Read more here, but these were the main questions that, of course, were flatly ignored by Mayor Joyce Craig, who pretends to care, but is unwilling to exercise the leadership necessary for reform.
1. Will the MPD un-encrypt their police scanners so we can hear what is happening real-time (like it used to be until 2016 when, without any public input, they hid this important citizen’s oversight tool from us)?
2. Will the BEARCAT be brought out?
3. What other agencies, other than MPD, are being used? You mention “federal.” Which ones? Under what authority/law?
4. Will the MPD’s body cameras be switched on? Will this footage be made available to the public upon request, as Chief Capano is on the record saying BWC footage would be?
5. Are any MPD officers working tonight also on the secret Laurie’s List (EES) of bad cops? If so, how many?
6. What use of force has been authorized? E.g. tear gas, rubber bullets, tazers, etc.
7. How much is this costing the taxpayers? Where is it accounted for (line item/budget)?
My point being, we need to end police militarization and policing in secret in order to restore public trust. You can start by answering my questions. I hope everyone is safe tonight. Thank you. #NHPolitics#NoPoliceStateNH
End Qualified Immunity as a Start to Ending Bad Apples Spoiling the Bunch
Want to understand more about solutions to the problems with policing in America? Start with eliminating Qualified Immunity, which is *literally* a “get out of jail free” card for cops. Yes, law enforcement is held to A LOWER STANDARD OF CARE than you or I. I have been advocating for the elimination of qualified immunity for more than a decade, and am very proud of the fact that in my First Amendment civil rights case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that police officers have NO QUALIFIED IMMUNITY if they arrest you for filming them or if they take your camera or phone. This means you can sue them in their personal capacity! (You’re welcome! :-))
Police Unions Protect Rotten Cops and This Must End
Here in NH, I have personally seen police union representatives testify against bills designed to help rein in bad cops.
I have even ended up in childish staring contests because they’ve tried to intimidate me when I testify in favor of more open, accessible, accountable and responsive government. One time in the chamber, I had to loudly reprimand a beefy dude looming over me with his arms folded who was trying to stare me down, with a “Really??? Are we doing this now!?!” Another time, I had two of my four car tires spiked with identical nails the same week as I testified. Coinkidink, right???
“This is what police unions do: defend the narrow interests of police at the expense of public safety. They exist to demand that taxpayers pay for dangerous, and even deadly, negligence. And although they are not the only pathology that affects American policing, they are a key internal influence on police culture, a locus of resistance to improvements designed to reduce police violence. To stop bad cops and police abuse, we must tackle police unions.” Read more…
Also, don’t miss this oldie but goodie from Radley Balko about the mentality of killer cops, and how they are trained.
Choose “dangerous” freedom
If you only read one thing today, let it be this brilliant article by John W. Whitehead, This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation.
“Let’s not lose sight of what started all of this in the first place: the U.S. government. More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, the systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government constitutes a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.”
Nonessential For What Again, Manchester City Hall?
I was pissed at having received at parking ticket last Thursday after 6pm on a semi-deserted street in downtown Manchester. As I stated then: “Yes, I broke “the parking rule.” I just assumed they would cut us ‘nonessentials’ some slack while they collected their bonuses and destroyed our livelihoods, but no, they needed to go out and extort $10 from someone trying to support downtown businesses… you know, the ones that DID have to fire and furlough people, unlike the City of Manchester who gave themselves raises and didn’t furlough ONE PERSON, yet also closed the frigging dump for no explicable reason and built a disgusting Hooverville camp that has its own police escort while I had to put out literal fires. But sure, you’re right, my bad.” I appealed the ticket based on the following reasoning:
Explanation of Appeal:
As I was declared “nonessential” by order of His Excellency, the Governor of NH, I, being nonessential, am unable and unwilling to pay this parking ticket.
Thank you for your prompt voiding of this ticket.
NH Governor’s Response Still (Even More So) Wrong
Chris Sununu continues to double, even triple, down on his bad decisions, which I have criticized from the start. Free people move freely, the government does not own you, and no matter what happens, the government is NOT authorized to lockup its citizens and still pretend that we live in a free society. (We don’t.)
This was my response to one of his recent posts, opening with a quote from “His Excellency’s God King Sununu”: “less than 5% of available hospital beds have been occupied by COVID-19 patients”… so there was no real “pandemic” in any sense of the actual definitional meaning of that word, but there is, and will continue to be a “government manufactured economic crisis,” including almost 20% of Granite Staters now being unemployed, a myriad of our businesses that are closing, and more hardship to come, correct?
Crickets on Double Standard Between ReOpen Rallies and Police Brutality Protests
This week, I wrote in to NHPR’s The Exchange (and called in too but alas, the phone just rang and rang, which seems sort of odd for a call-in show, but m’kay) to ask Laura Knoy to explain the difference in the media’s response between people they like (police brutality protestors) and people they don’t like (people concerned about the destruction of our liberties). Since I fall squarely into BOTH camps, I find it fascinating to see how the Karens and snitches and mask shamers and “YOU’RE A MURDERER FOR GOING OUTSIDE, CARLA” people have suddenly faded into oblivion now that it no longer serves their narrative.
Here’s what I said:
“I would like you to address the clear difference in how the media is reporting on concerns about the virus/social distancing and mask wearing depending on whom is doing the protesting… Liberty and police accountability are two of my core issues, so I’m familiar with both sets of protests, and I am shocked at how silent the social distancing- and mask shamers are suddenly, now that they “approve” of the protests… I would also point out that these are the same people, let’s call them “Karen,” who like to call the police on people, and I wonder whether they see the inherent problem with their way of thinking? They want MORE state to “fix” the state, instead of seeing that the state IS the problem… #HypocrisyMuch #NoPoliceStateNH“
And, if you want to be truly astounded, read this article, which cites more than 1,000 “health experts” who are now saying:
“But when it comes to the protests against police brutality, many medical experts think there should be an exemption to the COVID-19 lockdown logic.
More than a thousand public health experts signed an open letter specifically stating that “we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”
The letter conceded that mass protests carried the risk of spreading coronavirus, and offered some good—if naive—advice for people who are going out anyway: wear masks, stay home if sick, attempt to maintain six feet of distance from other protesters. Many protesters are wearing masks, but others are not. And while we can blame the police for forcefully corralling people into close quarters, it’s a bit rich for public health experts to endorse protesting under conditions that they know are impossible for protesters to meet.
Indeed, for the purposes of offering health care advice, the only thing that should matter to doctors is whether their harm-reduction recommendations are being followed: how big is the event, is it outdoors, are masks being worn, etc. However, the letter distinguishes police violence protesters from “white protesters resisting stay-home orders,” as if the virus could distinguish between the two types of events. While I am not a doctor, my understanding is that it cannot.”
Freedom is Contagious, Too
And Lastly… LFOD in the “Yankee Hong Kong”
Buy my book, The Ecstatic Pessimist now on Kindle with paperback coming soon. RSVP to my book launch at the illest event of the year (oh yes I did): PorcFest XVII taking place June 22-28, 2020 at Roger’s Campground in the beautiful White Mountains of the Free(ish) State. Learn more about this year’s event here. Buy your tickets or show your support by getting an In Spirit tix even if you can’t make it this year!