Free State Project outreach – Hampton (8/4/15)

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Today I assisted in an outreach event to the Hampton Democrats regarding the Free State Project.

The Hampton Democrats, during their monthly meeting, invited Zandra Rice Hawkins from Granite State Progress (GSP) to give a presentation on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Free State Project (FSP). From the invite email:

“Zandra Rice Hawkins will provide an update on the Free State Project and ALEC. If you are not familiar with either of these “initiatives” you should plan to attend – you will surprised and concerned at the amount of influence these two groups are playing – and hope to play – in New Hampshire.

Each of these promises to be VERY educational — pleas (sic) plan to join us.”

There were 11 total (adult) activists, among them Marcus and Sarah Chamberlain (and child), Kyle Mohney and his three children, Don McCollough, Ellen Blanchard, Denis Goddard, and Nelson Lourenço (not pictured).

When we arrived, a Hampton Democrat member was talking to the GSP presenter outside, and mention of there being “anarchist plants” in the crowd was overheard by myself and Kyle.

The GSP representative gave a presentation on ALEC first, detailing how it crafts model legislation that then is passed to state legislatures, as well as GSP’s efforts to pressure legislators to either not become ALEC members, or drop their membership.

Attention then turned to the FSP, at which point the presenter made sure to point out that there were several of us present. She went over the basics of the organization, including the 17,000+ signers, Porcfest, Liberty Forum, and former Governor Benson’s hearty endorsement. Then, the GSP representative attributed to the FSP several other functions in the general New Hampshire liberty community, such as Porc Manor temporary housing for movers, the FSP Job Alert Facebook group, and various social activities, showcasing the Lakes Region Porcupines beach day (though emphasizing that these were not normal socialization events, that Free Staters are political radicals). She said that the FSP was a highly efficient and organized project with dangerous views, and admitted she had no idea how it, or any of its members, were obtaining funding, and through which sources.

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Of paramount concern to the GSP presenter were the various legislative and electoral projects and victories of individuals who moved as part of the FSP, including the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and various candidates who identified as Free Staters, and emphasized the importance of “outing” their Free Stater status in order to bring them down. She also mentioned the harassment of meter maids in Keene and the establishment of the Church of the Sword, ostensibly to avoid taxes. She added that she had at her disposal a list of over 2,000 Free Staters to be used when exposing candidates for public office.

During the question and answer period, I pointed out that everything except for encouraging people to move to the state was done apart from the Free State Project, and that few of us were involved in electoral politics, and even fewer of us had any connection with Keene. I then encouraged members of the audience to ask any of us questions. Most of the questions were either regarding electoral involvement and about being forthright on motivations when running for office (we maintained that all Free Stater candidates were absolutely forthright about their views and intentions, and that state of origin is relatively meaningless), or regarding our ability to organize a community in which few of us had discernible sources of income. We explained how our community worked on voluntary initiative, charity, communication, and community-strengthening activities, and that there was no organizational structure or authority helping us do so. Baffling to them was how we were able to secure funding, either personally or for campaigns. I sometimes wonder that myself.

Overall it was a calm, respectful, and at times cordial conversation that ended well. On the way out, the speaker mentioned that we were “respectful.” One older woman talked with us on the way out, mentioning her immigrant family history and how we seemed like decent people. She took issue to a couple of us not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance (I stood) and recommended standing out of respect, but mentioned she actually enjoyed the work that Robin Hood of Keene had done.

All in all I would say it was a very successful outreach effort, especially since it was to a crowd of people attending an overtly hostile presentation about us.

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