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!
It is possible to be concerned about the virus, and the economic downturn, and the destruction of our civil liberties. I am, which is why I attended the rally on Saturday. I don’t underestimate the virus, but I also don’t underestimate the cost of the shutdown or the dangers of trading liberty for a false sense of security.
Life is about tradeoffs, and when you use faulty data to implement faulty “solutions” — restricting peoples’ natural rights, instituting a lockdown to “flatten the curve,” and dividing Granite Staters into “essential” and “nonessential” groups — bad outcomes must follow.Carla Gericke (see full article)
Our caution (and lack of widespread testing of antibodies) has carried a huge economic toll. For every person in the US who has died with the virus, 1000 people have lost their jobs. We don’t know how bad it might have been if we had done nothing. At this point, we should ask if we are willing to put another 30 million people out of work in the US when we could justifiably focus on reducing death due to heart disease or other infectious diseases. Also, consider that this virus is not going away – ever. As long as there is life on earth so will be this virus. It would be nonsense to think we can socially isolate our way to zero infections. Instead of forcing society to hide from it, we need to learn to live with it within reason.
Our national policy for this matter was created with good intentions and recognizing legitimate risks. We knew very little about the virus and what might happen. That’s not the case now. The curve is flat. Our hospitals are not overwhelmed. The mortality rate is 1/10th what we thought. At this point, there is not enough uncertainty to justify continuing to destroy the economy and the government intrusion of our liberties. The burden of proof for lifting the restrictions should no longer be on us. Instead of forcing us to prove the infection rates will drop, the government should be obligated to do widespread testing of antibodies in NH and prove that it is still a problem.
This coronavirus is still 10 times worse than the flu so I’m not suggesting we drop all caution. The data does suggest that we should be able to resume most of our activities with a cautious approach while not being sloppy. By now everyone has learned the basics of proper hygiene and many people will be slow to recover from the intense media blitz. Those at risk should take extra caution, just as with any other infectious disease. The other 98% of the population should be able to move forward and rebuild from this disaster. Before we know it we will find that the new normal is the same as the old normal.Dan Moriarty (see full article)
Manuse told Fox he believes the individual should be allowed to determine what restrictions are best for them.
“I think that that works a lot better than a top-down approach where the governor is telling everybody ‘one size fits all, this is how it’s going to go,'” he said. “That’s authoritarianism. It’s never worked before in any other country. And it’s not going to work in the United States or New Hampshire.”Andrew Manuse (see full article)
“The economic engine that provides food, beverages, clothing, shelter, and every modern convenience to the American people took more than a century to build. Yet, at the stroke of many a governor’s pens, the dangerous servant that is government has become a fearful master now poised to destroy our way of life in the name of safety.
The coronavirus did not cause this problem where the cure has become worse than the disease. Centralized government power has stripped us of our ability to manage our own affairs, and it by no means can dictate how we should rebuild them. It is time for the governor and others to step out of the way and let people go back to work so their free enterprise and ingenuity can meet the needs of those who are suffering.”Former State Representative, Andrew Manuse (see full op-ed)
Carla Gericke, a Republican state Senate candidate from Manchester, said she attended.
“I went as a concerned non-essential Granite Stater and Republican State Senate candidate (District 20) who believes the government’s response has resulted in the prevention being worse than the cure. The government does not have the right to pick economic winners or losers, nor force us to stay in our homes, especially not when, here in Manchester at least, NOT ONE city employee has lost their job or even been furloughed. Clearly, we are NOT ‘all in this together.’”
Gericke described the crowd Saturday as “an interesting mix of people, from health freedom activists to Free Staters. I didn’t really get an overt partisan slant, it wasn’t ‘Trump-forward’” although there were some.
“There were teachers and nurses and moms, there were politicians and state representatives and masked armed dudes, there were laid-off workers, a few people who have been deemed essential but wanted to show their solidarity, and many who have lost their jobs and want to get back to work,” Gericke said.
She said she went because “at least 124,000 Granite Staters have been put out of work– that’s the population of Manchester and Amherst combined, and that’s a devastating blow to our state’s economic health which we will feel for a long time. Many small business owners will never recover. I went because my favorite Manchester restaurant, the Turkish restaurant Matbah, shut down permanently.”
Gericke said she takes the virus seriously.
“But I am also very concerned about the destruction of the economy with all its knock-on negatives like increased suicides, more substance and domestic abuse, children dying by the hundreds of thousands in impoverished countries, and I worry about the expansion of authoritarian government policies without proper oversight or citizen control,” Gericke said. ¨If they can lock us down on the say of the W.H.O. now, what is next?”Carla Gericke (see full article)
I was asked by NH Journal to pen an opinion piece regarding the reopening of New Hampshire, which you can find here, We Are All Essential, It’s Time to Reopen NH, as well as the counterpoint by Senator Jon Morgan, I Want to Get the Hell Out of My House, Too — but We Can’t Rush Reopening.
Here’s my piece in full:
Freedom is the answer, what’s the question?
It is possible to be concerned about the virus, and the economic downturn and the destruction of our civil liberties. I am, which is why I attended the rally on Saturday. I don’t underestimate the virus, but I also don’t underestimate the cost of the shutdown or the dangers of trading liberty for a false sense of security.
Life is about tradeoffs, and when you use faulty data to implement faulty “solutions” — restricting peoples’ natural rights, instituting a lockdown to “flatten the curve,” and dividing Granite Staters into “essential” and “nonessential” groups — bad outcomes must follow.
We are all essential.
It is not the role of government to pick winners and losers. Unemployment leads to societal malaise, to increased suicides, domestic and child abuse, substance abuse, higher crime, lowered standards of living and shortened life spans.
Almost 20 percent of Granite State workers have lost their jobs already. That’s at least 125,000 people, mostly blue-collar workers and small business owners.
That’s the population equivalent of Manchester and Amherst combined. Next time you drive through Manchester, imagine, No one around me has a job anymore. Then drive past the next block, and the next, and the next.
Then consider that state employees are not being furloughed or laid off. Consider that they declared themselves “essential” and YOU, “nonessential.” Consider that union contracts with jaw-dropping benefits and above-market salaries are being ratified in emergency meetings that are not open to public scrutiny.
Consider that despite being told the hospitals would be overrun, another inaccurate prediction, more than 20 percent of N.H. hospital workers have been furloughed or laid off, effectively destroying private/elective healthcare, perhaps forever.
Then consider that your property taxes are going up… Then consider when they say “we are all in this together,” is it really true?
If we don’t have enough data to make good decisions, can we at least stop making bad ones? The original estimates were overstated by more than 30x. That’s soothsaying. What consequences do these unelected “experts” face for being wrong?
Different countries tried different approaches but the fatality rates look similar globally. Ironically, Sweden and South Korea both took less draconian approaches, and their curves look similar to ours, “the land of the
What kind of society do we live in when the government can suspend its own rules based on the inaccurate opinions of unelected officials? The First Amendment guarantees our right to peacefully assemble.
“Congress shall make no law” does not include “except when” or “unless this scary thing happens” or even, “under emergency circumstances.” If the government no longer follows the Constitution meant to constrain it, why should we remain law-abiding?
We can always protect our most vulnerable without losing our freedoms. We can ask people to stay at home voluntarily. We can accept that individuals have different appetites for risk, as is the case in a free society. We can remember that free people move freely, and that the government does not own you.
But alas, we are giving in to fear over freedom, we are walking away from our founding principles, and because of this, we will suffer under a government-manufactured economic crisis, and New Hampshire will never be the same.
About the Author
Carla Gericke is the Republican candidate for State Senate in District 20. Learn more at CarlaGericke.com. She wrote this for NHJournal.
Coverage of the anti-lockdown rally at the State House on April 18, 2020 from the Concord Patch. From the article:
“Carla Gericke, a Republican state Senate candidate from Manchester, noted that the 125,000 people out of work was the same amount of people who live in Amherst and the Queen City. She said, while driving around in Manchester, imagine everyone you see is out of work. That is what it was like in the state today.
‘We are all essential,’ Gericke said. ‘It is not the role of government to decide who are winners and losers. It is not the role of government to tell some of us, we are not essential — while making sure every single one of them is still getting paid.'”
Read more here…