Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene’: A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace

If you live in New Hampshire you have probably heard about the Free State Project (FSP).  This group of Libertarians who vowed to bring 20,000 members to New Hampshire in an effort to increase their personal freedoms.  “What I propose is a Free State Project, in which freedom-minded people of all stripes…establish residence in a small state and take over the state government,” Jason Sorens the creator of the FSP wrote.  The FSP has caused a significant impact on the state.  While the FSP has not reached their 20,000 person goal, they already have a significant political presence in NH.

Keene NH has been a hot bed of activity for the FSP.  Many have congregated there.  The ones who have settled there are the most extreme of this extremist organization.  There have been stories of Free Staters openly carrying guns onto college campuses, women walking topless in the streets, and videotaping police arrests.

Now there is a new thing happening in Keene that some people like, and others do not.  The group of Free Staters calls themselves ‘Robin Hoods’.  They go around putting money into expired parking meters so that violators do not get tickets.

From the Free-Keene Website:

“Activists in Keene have been “Robin Hooding” for years now. (Here are all our Robin Hood related posts.) The purpose is to rescue motorists like you from being ticked by Keene’s “parking enforcers”. If your meter is expired, Robin Hood and the Merry Men and Women will place a coin into the meter to extend your time, presuming we reach the meter before the King’s enforcers. If a “parking enforcer” is on the street, the Merry Men and Women will usually be seen walking directly in front of him/her and check and feed meters before the enforcer.”

While I am not against the idea of dropping a quarter in a meter every now and then to help someone out, this goes much beyond that.  The part that the Free-Keene site does not say is that the ‘parking enforcers’ as they call it, are being harassed for doing their jobs.  This harassment has become so much that the ‘robin hood gang’ is now being sued.

“In court documents, city officials say the group has “…taunted, interfered with, harassed and intimated the Parking Enforcement Officers…”

The parking enforcement officers say they have been physically bumped. Some say they are considering leaving their jobs.
(CBS News) “

This is where a friendly gesture turns into something different.  Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH, who represents the Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs), had this to say about the ‘robin hood gang’.

“Members of the Free-Keene movement, calling themselves “Robin Hoods”, have repeatedly taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated Keene’s Parking Enforcement Officers, (PEO’s), in the performance of their employment duties by following, surrounding, touching or nearly touching, and otherwise harassing the PEO’s in groups of one, two, or more in an attempt to prevent them from doing the job they were hired to do.

These employees have a right to do their job without intimidation, interference, harassment or taunts. AFT-NH strongly supports the city’s request for an injunction against the Free-Keene group to keep them at least 50 feet from an on-duty parking enforcement officer.

This has gone on long enough.  These workers are not the enemy of the Free-Keene movement, they are workers doing their jobs. Just because you disagree with their employer does not give you the right to harass an employee.  I do not agree with Wal-Mart but I do not take it out on people who work there.  I hope that the city brings the full extent of the law to prosecute these ‘robin hoods’ for harassing the police officers.

Everyone deserves a workplace free of any kind harassment.

UPDATE 5-19-13

After this post was written the Keene City Manger sent a letter to the public.  You can read it here.

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About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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