Recently I wrote the eulogy for Cop Block, the national police accountability activist news website. Nothing lasts forever, especially in the world of activism, where doing the right thing rarely means one can make a living at it. Burnout is real and has happened to some of the brightest activists to ever hit the Cop Block scene.
Cop Block as a national organization may have died, but it’s not dead here in New Hampshire, where it was incubated – according to founder Pete Eyre – in Keene.
Toward the end of this summer, state and local police set up DUI checkpoints in Cheshire county for the first time in five years. Thomas Parisi from The Jail Paper came out with the group to document the checkpoint. It was set up just a few hundred feet from the bridge to Brattleboro, VT so we had multiple Cop Blockers on both points of entry to the checkpoint with multiple reflective signs alerting peaceful motorists to the upcoming harassment. Not surprisingly, state police statistics reported zero DUIs were found during the checkpoint, though they did write a bunch of motor vehicle violation tickets and make a few drug possession arrests. So, all victimless “crimes” – another huge waste of taxpayer dollars.
Brandon Pinney Awaits Trial in a “Fuck Cops” Handmade Shirt
After being found guilty last year in Keene District Court of “disorderly conduct” for telling state police to “fuck off”, NH-native Brandon Pinney appealed to a jury trial. I’m happy to announce that thanks to a hung jury, Brandon is victorious, as the state has decided to not retry the case. In an email, Brandon says:
Just letting you know that the deadline has passed for the state to retry me and the hung jury stands. While i am disappointed I was not fully exonerated i am glad and fortunate that in my case a jury of my peers was able to see that the situation did not unfold as the state presented it.
For the full initial district court trial video, you can check out this post. At the time, he heroically wore a “FUCK COPS” homemade t-shirt into court. Free speech includes the right to say unpleasant things to government officials. The district court judge, Edward Burke, was wrong to uphold the charge against him and it was good to see some jurors could see the situation clearly. This is a clear free speech issue, and in the long run the state would have lost in its own courts. Brandon stated further: (more…)
Former Police Chief and Convicted Child Rapist Robert K Chambers Sr.
The reason why the government police can be so corrupt and violent is because they have a monopoly on violence. There’s no competition allowed in the marketplace. Worse, you’re forced to fund the police, even if they are doing things you disagree with, like arresting people for possession of cannabis, teens for alcohol, or committing multiple counts of rape against a child.
Many people mistakenly believe all Cop Blockers are against the police. The truth is, I’m not against the police. I’m in favor of when police protect people from real crime involving a victim. I have even assisted the police when they were investigating real crimes. However if police are arresting people for victimless crimes, I will oppose that. I’m a police accountability activist, which means holding the cops to their promise of doing good by reporting on the bad ones. The worst cops are those like Chambers, who are clearly people in search of power over others, as this recent despicable example sadly proves.
It’s of course, not the first time that NH’s top cops have been caught up in ugly news, revealing some of them as corrupt, power seekers. Don’t forget the New London, NH chief who allegedly coerced college girls to take nude photos in the police basement when they were arrested for some victimless crime or another. Or how about the Canterbury, NH chief who allegedly used his position of power to engage in sexual acts with a female teen police explorer? There’s the Haverhill, NH chief who resigned after being busted for DUI. Obviously not all chiefs are low-life hypocrites, but you have to wonder how many of them are corrupt. There’s no way to stop a corrupt officer from rising through the ranks of power, since if you withhold taxes in protest, the very same police will come and attack you and your family. (more…)
Chris Waid (right), Safely in the Median on Main St. in Keene in 2016.
On April 20th, Manchester police conducted another DUI checkpoint, believed to be the first of 2017. As always, Cop Blockers and more than a dozen other liberty activists came out with signs redirecting peaceful motorists away from turning down Bridge St, where they would have hit the checkpoint.
Longtime Manchester Cop Blocker Riaz Kahan stated that the interdiction was a major success, with 90% of cars that were intending to turn towards the checkpoint being redirected to another route, avoiding unnecessary police harassment. Manchester police conduct at least a few of these checkpoints per year and activists from all over the state are attracted to help. It’s another unprecedented level of activism that happens easily and regularly in New Hampshire, since there are active migrations of libertarians moving here. (Check out 101 reasons why, here.)
However, for the first time in the history of Manchester’s checkpoints, an activist was arrested. Not for DUI, but for crossing the street, walking toward the checkpoint.
Chris is a weekly co-host on syndicated radio show Free Talk Live, where we discussed the arrest on last Friday’s show. He’s a rare breed – a business owner who is willing to put his very freedom on the line. If more business owners had this level of courage, they could just ignore the government rather than obey them, and the government would have to go away.
In addition to standing up for freedom of the press, Chris is an active police accountability activist, with many hours logged in the streets, recording cops. It is his right to stand where he wants, so long as he’s not actively interfering in police investigations. By standing in the median, he’s taking his risk and the police have no obligation to protect him, especially from himself. If they try to use the argument that them yelling at him was for his own safety, that hopefully won’t hold up in court. We’ve been in medians frequently for activism in Keene and police here have been mostly respectful towards us. By the way, Chris is a homeowner in Keene, to which he moved his linux hardware business, Think Penguin in early 2016.
He’s currently facing a “Disorderly Conduct” Class A charge – the police’s favorite catch-all to target people they don’t like. Of course, we’ll continue to follow Chris’ case closely on Free Keene, so stay tuned.
After taking some time to reflect on this current issue, as Sheriff, I’ve decided that the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office will not seek to enter into an agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to enforce federal immigrations laws. Furthermore, we will not participate in raids, stings or operations that are solely intended at locating an undocumented person or persons. Any representative of ICE requesting our assistance must have an active criminal warrant issued by a judge or must be actively pursuing a criminal investigation that relates to public safety for us to participate.
According to the Sentinel’s report on Rivera’s announcement Keene Police’s acting chief, Steve Russo has yet to comment on the issue, but his late predecessor Brian Costa‘s position was similar to Rivera’s, saying, “We have no interest going forward, nor do we have the resources for deputizing our officers as part of ICE to go out and seek illegal or undocumented immigrants…We govern ourselves by our mission statement”, which says KPD is “to protect life and property and to maintain order within the City while assuring fair and respectful treatment of everyone.”
It sounds like Sheriff Rivera is on the same page as Costa. In his excellent statement, Rivera continues:
In addition, we will not ask a person their immigration status or detain a person based on an administrative civil detainer that is not issued by a judge. As Sheriff, I do not want undocumented immigrants to fear the Sheriff’s Office, instead I want them to be able to approach and speak to any of my deputies without the fear that they will be turned over to ICE. If in the course of our duties we happen to come across an undocumented person we will handle each encounter in a way we deem appropriate for each situation…
If you are an undocumented person in Cheshire County and feel uncertain about approaching law enforcement for fear they will turned you over to ICE, feel free to call me, Sheriff Eli Rivera, at the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the WMUR report on Rivera’s policy, some control-freak politicians are butthurt over this. Good. Unlike those cowardly politicians, kudos to Rivera for having the courage to do the right thing and truly protect the people of Cheshire county from the evil hands of the federal government. It would be better of course if Rivera would also stop cooperating with the feds on other victimless crime enforcement, like the insane War on Drugs, but this is a BIG step in the right direction.
I’m glad to live in a place where law enforcement acts more human, more often, than anywhere else I’ve ever been. You’ve got Rick Van Wickler, Cheshire County’s jail superintendent who is also a longtime speaker at Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a compassionate group of mostly former police which you may remember as being previously called, “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition” until they expanded their mission to include other issues where police reform is badly needed, Van Wickler has been a constant presence in Concord at state house hearings about drug legalization, speaking strongly in favor of any efforts to end prohibition in New Hampshire. He also runs his jail much more compassionately than the supermajority of the others in the United States. Add to that, a relatively calm and approachable group of Keene police, and now this excellent news from Sheriff Rivera.
Thank you, Eli. You’ve earned my vote in the next election. The land known as Cheshire county in the Shire should be a sanctuary for all peaceful people. Your immigration policy helps us get closer to that ideal. Next step, NH seceding from the United States! Viva New Hampshire!
I was shocked to hear the news on WKBK earlier this week that Brian Costa, Keene’s police chief since 2015, had died in his home one week ago. I was even more surprised to learn he was just 46 years old. Unlike his predecessor, Brian treated me like a human being. He was kind, respectful, and approachable. Surely he and I disagreed on various subjects, but that never stopped him from being willing to work with me where we agreed. The few times I’d interacted with him in his too-short-a-term as police chief, I was impressed with his humanity and professionalism. Though I didn’t know him well, I wish I did.
Years ago when I moved here, as many activists do, I had an axe to grind with the police. The police, as the enforcement arm of the state, were obviously the bad guys. However, as one of the original Cop Blockers, (Badge #5) out in the streets as often as I was, it didn’t take me long to begin connecting with the Keene police as fellow human beings (instead of mindless statist automatons, which is easy for us libertarians to think about police if we don’t know them). The most memorable early paradigm-shifting encounter was my ride-along with KPD’s Shane Maxfield, nearly a decade ago.
At various different activist events in Keene, (the home of Cop Block) I encountered Brian Costa on multiple occasions, who prior to becoming chief was one of KPD’s two captains. However, due to him being a captain, his responsibilities were more management than they were patrol, so our contact was fairly limited at that time.
Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when one day shortly after Brian’s appointment as Keene police chief, I was standing out in Central Square, distracted by something on my phone. As I looked up from my device, there he was right in front of me! Brian was dressed in his full Keene police uniform, as any other patrol officer would be. He explained that he’d seen me from his walk downtown and he wanted to introduce himself.
I’ll always remember that about him. I was struck by how humble he appeared. Not only was he not above walking the streets like any other KPD officer, but that he would take time to come over and say hello was really impressive. I was happy to meet him officially and grateful to be treated like a human being by KPD’s chief for the first time in years.
Then, early in 2016, Brian called me out of the blue and asked me for help. There was a bad batch of heroin that had been hitting the streets and leading to overdoses. He had reached out to me as the publisher of Free Keene (Keene’s most popular blog and a Google news source), hoping that I would help get the word out about the bad batch of drugs. Of course I would. Though I’m against the war on drugs and it was Brian’s job to enforce it, we found common ground in the goal of harm reduction. I told him I’d get on it, thanked him for thinking of me, and immediately published this article about the bad dope. When I share goals with someone, despite our differences, I’m willing to work with them to accomplish our common goals. This builds bridges between people on opposite sides of other issues, increasing the likelihood of further communication and a growing mutual respect. Brian understood this, and he earned my respect by being a decent person.
Now, he’s gone from this world, and WAY too soon. Whoever is chosen as his permanent replacement has some BIG shoes to fill. I really wish I could have gotten to know Brian better. I feel like I missed out. (more…)