The city of Keene has been introduced to a new verb called “robin-hooding.”
According to local activists and members of Free Keene, “Robin-Hooding” is their reference for “One who saves another from getting a parking ticket,” Ian Freeman said. Ian Freeman is a member of this activist group. He said that Free Keene isn’t really an organization or company, just some individuals coming together to help out their fellow motorists.
Freeman said this movement started early in 2009 when a lady named Lauren Caniro started a free-state project and would help local citizens from getting parking tickets. If she paid for someone’s meter, she would leave a note in an envelope stating her kind gesture that the person’s meter ran out, but she saved them from a ticket. Evidently, Freeman said, over the years activists have picked up the ball and rolled with it.
By the end of 2012, James Cleaveland, another activist, got very interested in ‘robin-hooding’. Cleaveland explained he made people extremely excited and brought multiple people on board.
Freeman said what distinguishes them from being just anyone paying someone’s meter is the card they leave behind for the driver. Instead of the envelope and letter, it’s like a calling card, a little business card with a picture on it. Freeman said it contains their information and something like “Your meter expired, but we saved you!”
According to Freeman, once people see this gesture, most really appreciate it. He said a lot of people will donate to Free Keene. He said everything that comes in for the group, comes in from donations and from people who appreciate what the members were doing. He said now people are out applying these actions on a daily basis. He said he hasn’t personally been out ‘robin-hooding’ every day, but he has gone out a handful of times this year.
Ginger Hill, Keene parking operations manager, said that there have been several altercations with the free-staters, and that some of the citizens don’t like theirs actions and they have approached the members and made their feelings known.
Keene Police Department Lieutenant, Shane Maxfield, indicated no one has been arrested for any actions that have been taken related to “robing- hooding.”
Still, Hill said most of the parking enforcement officers can recognize a Robin Hooder when they see them and know them by name. “But then there’s some that come out occasionally, I don’t know if it’s new recruits, some kind of come and go,” Hill said. She said before December 2012 people were just going out occasionally, that they weren’t “harassing” the police. “All the activities they’ve been doing now are new,” Hill said.
Moreover, Freeman said he’d like to see parking enforcement go away entirely. KSC sophomore Courtney Lacerte agreed with Freeman. “I don’t think there should be paid parking anywhere,” Lacerte said.
Freeman also explained that other than helping people avoid paying expired meters, they [the Free-staters] take it upon themselves to enlighten people in Keene with legal information.
Freeman stated the first of the month every two months the court has arraignments requiring defendants to come in who have never hurt anybody, such as KSC students who were arrested for carrying a container full of alcohol from one house to another, not for hurting someone.
Freeman said he sees the court offer them a plea bargain, and they’re being charged hundreds of dollars when they never hurt anyone.
Freeman said no one wants to go to court, but ultimately people take the plea bargain. “My goal is to not let them take the plea deal, hand them the flyer, and give the knowledge to get them to know their rights,” said Freeman.
Furthermore, he said in a jury altercation outreach, he hands out different information that shows the jury that they are always allowed to vote with their conscious not by the law.
For example, if a student was caught with marijuana, but someone on the jury thought marijuana should be legalized, he or she can vote the victim not guilty of that crime, said Freeman.
Lastly he also said “cop blocking” is something they do. They carry a two-way radio so they can follow the police and make sure they are not enforcing laws inappropriately. They bring cameras to record their actions and flyers to inform people of their rights. Freeman said most students don’t know their rights, and that half the time a police officer searches them, they didn’t have to consent to that search.
Scott Munroe, a sophomore at KSC said he saw a video of a bystander recording the Robin Hooders paying parking meters in front of the officers.
“I guess it’s cool if you get your meter paid for. I’d be happy. But I think maybe they’re doing it to get all this attention,” he added.
Meanwhile, Free Keene does have a website; freekeene.com that people can visit. They have events and information on the group and Keene as well.
They include everything from city council meetings, to social Sundays. Social Sundays are held at a local bar. Freeman said about 15-20 people will come and talk about different things. “We’re a bunch of people that have a similar political mind-set that favor freedom and like to discuss. There’s no structure to it, it’s very laid back,” said Freeman. Freeman went on to say that the website Free Keene is a blog he created with other a dozen bloggers. He said some aren’t Free State project participants.
“Free State Project exists to bring people, like me, who are lifted minded activists to N.H. We have no say in what they do once they get here,” Freeman said.
Freeman said has accepted hugs, money and a lot of words of appreciation from people when ‘robin-hooding’. However, he admitted some people don’t like their actions, and he said these people tend to be family members of those working for the city parking enforcers, or people who have heard rumors about the Robin Hooders.
“People think we’re harassing the parking enforcers and we are not. It hurts us when the city lies about us. It causes misunderstanding. I think overall the people enjoy the fee being paid,” Freeman said.
Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at email@example.com