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.
Brandon Pinney Awaits Trial in a “Fuck Cops” Handmade Shirt
Brandon Pinney is a NH native who is now facing a year in jail for telling state police to fuck off. His is a classic case of being oppressed for freedom of speech. Historically, people arrested for flipping off or telling off police have been vindicated on appeal. It may not be nice to say mean things to cops, but freedom of speech is meant to protect unpopular speech.
Brandon was arrested at Surry Dam when after doing five-miles over the speed limit he was confronted by a forest ranger. We don’t know exactly how their interaction went, because Brandon did not record video. According to Brandon, the ranger berated him about the speeding and Brandon blew him off in an unkind manner. The ranger then said he would be calling the police and Brandon followed him back to his office. The ranger claims Brandon was pounding on the office door yelling at him, while Brandon says he was not pounding on the door and was in no way threatening the man.
However, the ranger’s testimony was that he was frightened and when state police arrived, Brandon told them to fuck off, and when he repeated it at the request of one of the staties, Brandon was arrested.
One note – during trial, judge Burke said nothing about his shirt, but at sentencing, wearing the same shirt, Brandon was told if he did it again it would be contempt of court. Not only can you not express yourself to police, you can’t express yourself via your wardrobe. Whatever happened to freedom? You generally don’t find it at the district court level.
This isn’t legal advice, but it’s generally a bad idea to speak to police. The more talking you do, the closer you get to being issued a ticket or arrested for something. When the officer asks the routine question about the address on the license, he’s fishing to see if you’ve moved recently, and if you have done so without notifying the state within some amount of days. He can write you a ticket for that. So, by answering that question innocently, many people will walk themselves right into another fine.
Credit to Kenny Suiter for this simple approach to police stops that gives the driver the ability to respond to police questions, which is one’s natural inclination the police are trained to exploit, by simply informing them that you are not answering questions. Over and over. Here’s Kenny’s inspirational video.
Keene, NH holds the distinction of being the home of both Cop Block founders Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman. New Hampshire is also the destination for the Free State Project, which is encouraging liberty-minded people, including police accountability activists, to move together so as to be more effective. What better place to hold a yearly panel discussing Cop Blocking?
Pumpkin Fest 2014: Dozens of Staties Attack Three Innocent, Teen Students
Ryan McLellan and his friends never hurt anyone or destroyed any property on the night of Pumpkin Fest 2014. However, that didn’t stop dozens of state police from swarming and attacking the three young men as they attempted to go to the Campus Convenience store on the corner of the block where their dorm was located. Earlier in the day and night there were riots in the neighborhood, but by the early morning hours when Ryan and his friends were attacked, there was nothing happening.
Well, I shouldn’t say nothing. Their neighborhood was being occupied by a very large group of armed men who were in a mood to order around and kidnap anyone they darn well wanted. Here’s the original video I released at the time, which shows the arrests and surrounding scene in full. Just minutes prior to their attack, but before the huge throng of state police had been brought in, I had been in the exact same place as the young men. Though the cops who were there at the time prohibited me from crossing into Winchester St., (for no apparent reason other than arbitrary control), they did not tackle and arrest me, like was done to Ryan and his friends.
Sadly, despite his being a clear case of police abuse and having an attorney willing to take the case to trial and beyond, Ryan took the plea deal, having a nonsense “resisting arrest” charge conditionally nolle-prossed in return for his guilty plea to “disorderly conduct”. These are two of the police’s favorite charges to throw at someone who they don’t like, but has otherwise done nothing wrong.
They were going to the convenience store. It was past midnight and they were hungry. When told to “GO HOME!”, they seemed confused – after all, they had committed no crimes, and further, there were other normal people walking down Winchester St, so why were they allowed to walk somewhere but not Ryan and friends?
“My son has had 2 MRIs bad concussion lives with headaches everyday, dislocated his shoulder, sprained ankle and bruised the inside of his mouth from kneeling on his face.”
During sentencing, judge Edward J Burke fined him $1,000 suspended for two years on condition of good behavior, gave him 50 hours of community service, and lectured him as though he were somehow as bad as the people who had committed violence or property destruction, despite him never being accused of doing any such thing!
It was sad to watch. If you’re ever facing criminal charges, especially in the case of police abuse – please consider not taking the plea deal. Taking the plea only encourages more bad behavior from the police and “justice” system like this and ensures you’ll never be able to challenge what they did to you.
Finally, before you accuse me of being anti-police, remember it was my video I gave to Keene police that led to the capture and conviction of people who actually committed violent and property crime during the Pumpkin Fest riots. I am fine with the police going after real criminals, but not peaceful people like Ryan and his friends.
Multiple liberty activists responded to the scene after local independent journalist Jared Goodell posted the news that armed police were on Central Square. (Goodell’s personal facebook profile is quickly becoming a go-to destination for breaking news in Keene.) Keene police kept the initial call from the alleged hostage-taker off of their two-way radio system, in what was the beginning of a campaign to preclude the public from actually knowing anything about what was happening in their midst.
All people in the streets knew was the police were hiding behind brick walls, brandishing guns and observing the block of buildings that includes 39 Central Square. To their credit, the Keene police were not preventing people from taking the risk of walking downtown, but they were at the same time not informing anyone about the risk that may have been present.
When asked, multiple pairs of the officers surrounding the building would deny any knowledge of why they were there. Why lie? After I asked three sets of officers what was happening, I finally got the barest minimum of information out of Michael “Pepper” Kopcha. He admitted there may be a situation in the building, but again, gave no information as to what danger may be present.
There are arguments both for and against how they responded, but there’s no good reason to keep people in the dark about what is happening, especially if they want people to believe they are “serving and protecting” them. (more…)