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.
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.
The police were definitely watching, with what many suspected to be a police drone surveilling from above during the main event at 4:20. While one could say the drone being police-operated is speculation, there was definitely an unmarked police SUV parked and observing the crowd early on in the event. After I noticed him sitting there, I walked over to the grass near where he was sitting and pointed my camera at him. Within a minute, he said something into a microphone, rolled up his window and left, not to return. You can see it happen in this highlight video (at about 4:38 in) from the event (minus him talking into the mic – that happened before I hit record, sadly):
Besides a few state police cruisers driving by (not unusual for downtown Concord), that was the extent of any obvious police presence. As has been the case over the eight years of this epic civil disobedience event, no one was arrested.
Social media is abuzz as video has been shared of Kristopher Kristolaitis being attacked by police Sunday night at Mr. Mike’s convenience store in Winchester, NH. According to an interview for Free Keene with Kristolaitis, his assailants included officer Michael Paul Laska of Winchester Police, as well as corporal Joshua Murray of Hinsdale police and a third as-yet-unidentified officer. Both Laska and Murray are former Marines. The victim says that WPD’s Laska was the hothead in the video, shouting at the frustrated, angry crowd at one point to “GET BACK!”.
Witnesses say Kristolaitis was arguing with another man, Billy Hillock, when someone called over police. Police eventually responded once Winchester firemen came over to see what was going on. Apparently the firemen were there already on an unrelated situation. As Hillock attempted to leave, police questioned him and let him go, prompting Kristolaitis to ask why. (Hillock is an auto mechanic who happens to work on Winchester PD’s cruisers. Things that make you go hmm…) A Hinsdale officer then asked him his name, to which he responded by saying he’d provide once the officer explained why he let the other man leave. During this interaction, officer Laska approached Kristolaitis from behind and handcuffed him on one wrist without ever telling him he was under arrest. The witness says this is when the video begins. (more…)
Last night around midnight, an NH state trooper pulled over some young men just outside the LRN.FM studio in Keene, NH. The officer must be new to the force, as there are about a dozen liberty-oriented folks who live on this street corner, which means that at any time of the day or night, it’s likely someone is awake and will notice. Experienced cop blocker Renee Kate and I spotted the pullover and after getting on some warm clothing, given it was about zero degrees Fahrenheit, we immediately responded. Here’s the video:
As we approached the scene, we heard the officer badgering a guy in the back of the car about ID. As I understand it, it’s not a requirement for anyone in a car except the driver to show ID, so I told the officer he doesn’t need to be asking for that information. Pretty much right as we arrived, he went back to his cruiser. I then approached the driver and asked if he was okay with us recording the scene. He was. (more…)
I had the pleasure this week of seeing James Carroll of Flex Your Rights give a presentation to a couple dozen students at Keene State College. He covered various aspects of how to handle encounters with police and encouraged not taking a plea deal and going to trial rather than just paying fines.
I found it really rewarding to see James’ presentation. It was informative and relevant to the students watching it and I’m glad I had the night off to be able to record it so others who couldn’t attend can benefit. When James started college in Keene, he wasn’t an activist. Now he’s working with one of the most prominent know-your-rights groups in the world, Flex Your Rights. His path to where he is would not have been possible without his time in Keene and the liberty activism here that had a positive, inspirational impact on his life. What an honor to have had a role in that.
Some people don’t understand why I do the activism that I do. Why take risks by standing up for your rights? Why speak out in favor of peace and liberty? Why do activism that could and does offend? Because as an activist and communicator of the ideas of liberty, you never know whose life you’ll touch. When you stay true to yourself, put your message out there, and stand up for yours and others’ rights, the right people will see it and pay attention. When the student is ready, the master appears. Your actions just might be the spark that ignites the next James Carroll.