This week, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a group who goes around filling parking meters and heckling parking officers, are protected by the right to free speech. However, the state may soon pass new laws to create a “buffer zone” around parking officers, so they can not be approached by activists.
For years, groups of Keene residents known as “Robin Hooders” have walked the streets filling expired parking meters with their own money, in order to save people from getting parking tickets.
Occasionally, when they encounter an angry parking enforcer, they are prepared to film the situation with their smart phones.
When the Robin Hooders come across a car that already has a ticket on it, they will place some information on the person’s windshield, which provides tips on how to beat the ticket in court.
Robin Hood activist and radio show host Ian Freeman estimates that they prevented at least 8,000 tickets in 2013, saving Keene motorists an estimated $80,000 in that year alone. These savings have not gone unnoticed by the local government, who have become concerned about the revenue that they are missing out on.
In 2013, an amusing rivalry between the Robin Hood activists and city employees turned into a legal battle, when parking enforcers claimed that they felt “threatened”, and the city government filed a pair of lawsuits against six Keene activists accused of organizing many of the Robin Hood efforts.
This week, the state’s Supreme Court finally ruled that the Robin Hood activism was protected by free speech, but the battle is far from won.
As Ian Freeman pointed out on the local blog Free Keene:
In a nearly complete victory for Robin Hood of Keene, the NH supreme court has affirmed nearly all of the superior court’s decisions against the people calling themselves the “City of Keene” in the city’s libelous assault on the heroic activists who have rescued thousands of motorists from parking tickets in downtown Keene in the last couple of years.
The victory is nearly complete, with one exception. The supremes ruled that the lower court needed to consider the city’s request for injunction separately from the claims of “tortious interference” and “conspiracy”. Therefore, the supremes remanded only that detail back to the superior court to decide.
He added that:
Free speech attorney Jon Meyer, who took this case pro-bono says he’ll be filing a motion to reconsider the remanded portion of the case and is ultimately prepared to go back to superior court and crush this frivolous, harassing case for good. Of course the city people don’t have to spend their own personal money to go to court – they get to spend taxpayer dollars on this nonsense. So, the only thing that might stop them appealing this further up to federal courts is that the longer they drag it out, the longer taxpayers in Keene will be angry at them about it. Time will tell. Meanwhile, Robin Hooders continue to rescue innocent motorists in the streets of Keene.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.
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