“Sometimes, people have a hard time trying to peg the protest politics of Carla Gericke.
As a Republican candidate for the New Hampshire Senate and a ‘hardcore libertarian,’ she has been an outspoken activist against the stay-at-home orders handed down by Gov. Chris Sununu during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s a position many people may equate with Trump-style conservatism.
At the same time, however, Ms. Gericke has also been a longtime activist against what she sees as the troubling militarization of American police forces, and she’s been mostly supportive of Black Lives Matter efforts to defund the police.
‘I am all for taking part of the budget and moving it away from escalating policing, and maybe move it more toward mental health, community development, and that kind of stuff,’ says Ms. Gericke, who has run against the powerful Democratic incumbent in her district for the past three election cycles. ‘That wouldn’t really reduce a line item in terms of the budget and wouldn’t really be shrinking the government, so for me, that isn’t the ideal solution. But I’m willing to say I think that would be a step towards a healthier, more peaceful society.’
She’s gotten hate mail for her efforts from both sides of the political spectrum. But like most libertarians, Ms. Gericke’s principled opposition to what she sees as ever-expanding and far-reaching state powers – especially the lethal power given to police along with their ‘qualified immunities’ from legal accountability – has been a core plank of her political philosophy from the start.
The Republican candidate joined other community activists on the left in 2013 to help lead efforts to keep the city of Concord from purchasing a new Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or BEARCAT, which city officials said was necessary because of “frequent demonstrations by officially organized groups which have the potential of becoming volatile.”
It is the kind of language she finds chilling. ‘Concord at the time had had like, two murders in a decade,’ she says. ‘But of course they ended up getting their BEARCAT anyway.’…
“It feels like progress”
As a libertarian activist and president emeritus of the Free State Project in New Hampshire, Ms. Gericke, too, has long fought for transparency and accountability in municipal police forces.
‘I do think there is definitely a lot of overlap with these more liberal groups,’ says Ms. Gericke, who grew up under the apartheid regime in South Africa and thus remains suspicious of government power. ‘And one of the problems all of us see, in part, is this notion of ‘law and order.’ … It is the fearmongering from the war on drugs. And it is, I believe, partly the institutionalized racism inherent in the prison system – the whole school-to-prison pipeline we can so easily see.’
More recently, Ms. Gericke joined with the ACLU and New Hampshire news organizations to demand the public release of the names of police officers who have been accused of misconduct, known as the ‘Laurie List.’ New Hampshire law exempts this list from the state’s existing freedom-of-information laws.
Last year a state judge ordered the release of the list, which includes the names of some 260 cops, but Republican Governor Sununu and law enforcement officials appealed the ruling at the time. In the past month, however, each appears to be rethinking this opposition, and the governor announced the formation of a commission to recommend reforms ‘to enhance transparency, accountability, and community relations in law enforcement.’
As Ms. Gericke woos voters in her district – her campaign slogan is ‘Protecting the smallest minority, the individual … YOU!’ – she has been heartened to see police accountability finally become a national issue supported by an array of political perspectives.
‘As a libertarian and as someone who’s worked against the expanding police state for such a long time, it’s sort of a ‘let’s see if it happens’ kind of thing,” she says. ‘But at least it feels like progress.’”