by Garret Ean
Sept 22 2011
Yesterday was my first scheduled appearance in court following the mass arrests and camera seizures which I was swept up in at the Manchester police department on June 4, 2011. Having originally given all those arrested arraignment dates of June 26, 2011, upon filing my continuance I was given an arraignment date of July 8. Several days before this, I received an updated paper from the court announcing that my ‘arraignment and trial’ would take place on September 21. It is odd that both court proceedings would occur on the same date, though this would not be the first oddity making the odyssey of the Chalking 8 unique.
Kate Ager, the first of the Chalking 8 to face trial, never was arraigned. Technically, neither was I. Having received my discovery package from the court on September 14, I mailed in my motion to compel discovery the very next day. When I called them to inquire about it, the court reported receiving it on September 16, and the prosecution reported having received it the following Monday, September 19. Needing the evidence to prepare my defense, I expected September 21 to be a hearing on that motion. On the 19th, I received a motion to continue from the prosecutor, who wanted a full ten days to review my motion to compel before making his own motion on the matter and before the judge would make a determination. Thus, nothing procedurally happened on September 21. I appeared, but was not arraigned, and was instead given a motion hearings date (October 25) and a trial date (November 18). Presumably, neither Kate nor myself were arraigned because authorities did research on how liberty activists handle court proceedings. As an advocate against taking plea deals from the prosecution, I suppose it was assumed that we would be going “Not Guilty” and forcing a trial. About 95% of cases are pled out before there’s an opportunity for trial, which speaks poorly of the justice system. It means more people are cutting deals to lessen their charges than actually allowing their supposed crime to be reviewed by the system, judged and sentenced. Often those not even guilty of any wrongdoing will still find the plea deal an attractive offer since it eliminates the need to expend time and resources in defending oneself in court.
I was hoping my motion to compel evidence would be ruled upon at my first appearance, but alas, I may have to wait until October 25 if the prosecution is unable to provide me with the evidence I am seeking before then. The day of the Chalking 8 arrests, as police began confiscating cameras of those present, officers told those stolen from that the police would also be preserving the video evidence captured by cameras affixed to the police station at 351 Chestnut Street (see my video from the scene that day to hear officers state this fact). All of the discovery packages received by defendants so far have included none of this evidence, which is especially integral to the defense of those of us arrested later in the day, after many videographers had already had their cameras taken, meaning little video evidence exists following that timeframe. My own camera had run out of battery life shortly before Kate Ager’s arrest (the fifth arrest), meaning myself, Pete Eyre, and Charles Nachtrieb depend upon the videos taken by others to piece together what motivated the few actors of MPD to seize our liberty on that day.
There’s only so much that it would be wise to reveal about my planned defense prior to trial, so I will report no more upon that and instead speak to the proceedings which occurred on September 21. If I had hired an attorney, it is likely that I would have been advised to make no public statements regarding the case until after all is settled. In any case, I am confident enough in my innocence in this matter that I’m not quite as worried about how my reporting will affect the case as I might be if I were facing felony charges or serious jail time. As it is, the two 644:2 Class B misdemeanor charges I face carry no jail time, unless I were to refuse a levied fine. It is worth noting that the video I edited from my footage that day was included in my discovery package, along with a statement from an officer documenting several videos discovered online from that day which were downloaded and submitted as evidence.
Doing the math on the date I received my discovery (eight days prior to trial), I was automatically ineligible to make a motion based on the discovery which would have given the prosecutor the court-allocated ten days to respond to the motion before prompting the judge to make a ruling. In that same discovery was a paper requesting that I submit my witness list and any additional evidence I wished to present in court ten days prior to trial. This, too, was a physical impossibility, which resulted in the September 21 hearing determining nothing but when a future hearing and trial date would be. Strange about the discovery packages received by those given them so far (not all of the Chalking 8 have even received their discovery packages) is that they include all evidence related to all arrests that day. Each arrest is supposed to be treated as an individual lapse in conduct by the individual arrested, but it appears a sort of groupthink has motivated Manchester authorities to collectivize the actions of various individuals into one incident. That said, my trial shall only judge my actions that day, just as all of the other individuals who face trial can only be held accountable for their own actions. While I was being booked, there was a business-suited officer trotting about the room where at the time three of us were being held, speaking to no one in particular as he repeated, “You guys came down here to cause trouble.” I stated to him that only individuals can be held accountable for their actions, to which he replied with a cliché about how he perceives everything as “black and white” and that I shouldn’t try and convince him of anything. This brief interaction stands out in my mind as a sign of things to come, indicating how it seems the investigation would be handled.
At 5:20 in the video (embedded below), shortly before the judge is to enter, I speak a disclaimer into the camera. I explain that in this instance, I will stand as the judge enters, being as how I don’t know what sort of bias might be created if I do not acquiesce to tradition. Having attended a number of other activists’ trials and other court appearances in the Shire, I have a personal principle against recognizing the court’s honoraries, such standing for the judge. This is not a personal slight against the individual wearing the robe, but rather a recognition of the fact that no man should be considered of greater importance or of deserving a particular respect over another man. Since I don’t stand whenever anyone enters the room, I’m not going to make a policy of giving one person special treatment. Some judges are more considerate than others of this fact. At a recent rolling stop sign trial I had in Concord, though the judge made no mention of it, securicrat Peter Hamilton threatened to remove me from a courtroom that I was scheduled to appear in if I didn’t stand a second time. After I explained to him that not standing for a judge is a recognized civil right, he passively implied that he may not act on that threat. Judge John Arnold in Keene, at the Cheshire superior court has been the worst in this regard. At Ian Freeman’s recent trial for standing in front of a police car, he told all present that if they did not stand for him he would have them removed. It is sad that one man would make such a wanton demand for obedience from a room of free men. Some Quakers present compromised their beliefs in that instance so they would be able to be present for the proceedings, although they would likely have a solid lawsuit for violation of religious freedoms if the judge were to act on such a threat against a conscientiously objecting minority. Fortunately, Mr. Arnold is reportedly retiring soon.
And then there’s the securicrats…
Before getting into the courthouse, you must pass through a metal detector and have any bags screened through an X-Ray conveyor belt. On my way in, I noticed that an openly armed securicrat, wearing a shoulder holster over his button-down shirt, began giving my laptop case a thorough search, looking though folders and zipped pockets for who knows what. I then began recording him. Four items were confiscated; shrink-wrapped chalk, my tripod, half of my steak and cheese sub lunch, and my laptop’s A/C cables. When I inquired as to why my cables were being taken, one securicrat said they were a “choking hazard” and made a strangulation gesture with his hands. They made no issue of the belt around my waist, nor the fact that anybody could have filled their pockets with enough rope for everyone forced to appear on any given day. The notoriously finger-happy agents of the TSA don’t even bat an eye at cables and cords, so why is it that court security bureaucrats take such an exception to them? My tripod was taken “as a weapon”. Upon inquiring about this silly assertion, a bureaucrat said, “You swing it at me, it’s a weapon”. The mentality of these individuals is that you are a criminal, and they must disarm you. I also had to fill out a form to allow a friend to act as a member of the press and record my hearing. All of this affirms the fact that in courthouses, where the law in the “land of the free” is interpreted, that the constitution does not apply. Unless you are a police officer, in which case you are permitted to walk about armed with a variety of dangerous weapons while those defending themselves legally are physically disarmed. The securicrats made repeated requests of me to stop filming them, and I acquiesced to none of these demands. They didn’t answer when I asked what made them nervous about their actions being documented, and I can only speculate that it is because subconsciously they are aware that they are exercising an unjustifiably arbitrary authority over their fellow man.
After the hearing was over, I gave prosecutor Gregory Muller a CD containing a video I had found shot by an individual on the scene that day which police had overlooked in their internet search. Upon receiving any further mail or motions from the people calling themselves the state, I’ll be sure to post the updates here at Free Concord. Stay tuned for more coverage as the remaining six of the Chalking 8 face trial.
Here’s the video I made of the proceedings, with much appreciated assistance behind the camera from Neal Conner.
Oct 3 2011: According to Greg Muller, Manchester police allowed their own video recordings from the day to be destroyed, all while they were stealing cameras from private individuals. See: