Free State Project EXPOSED! | How Libertarians Took Over New Hampshire
 
On May 24 2017 I attended, “Exposing the Free State  Project,” 90 minutes of slander and lies by Zandra Rice Hawkins. Hawkins  is a propagandist with Granite State Progress, a political arm of the  New Hampshire Democrats. She apparently missed her calling as a preacher  of the fire and brimstone variety, given the fear, mistrust, and terror  she attempted to sow throughout the crowd. In the end, attendees seemed  rightfully doubtful of Hawkins’ spurious claims that Free Staters are  wolves in sheep’s clothing, secretly plotting to dismantle every beloved  societal institution they can. Instead, Free Staters were seen as open,  willing to engage others on the issues that matter most to them, and  find common ground where possible to make a better life for everyone.

https://youtu.be/frEFIF4EPRA

The event was advertised as “free and open to the public.” In case you missed it, a generous attendee provided me with a 90-minute audio recording.

The event was broken into two parts. First, a lecture with  slides giving some background about the FSP and its participants (not  “members”). Following the lecture there was a brief period for  announcements, and then a 45-minute question and answer session. FSP  participants were invited to rise and introduce themselves so that the  community may know who they are. About 10 rose to introduce themselves. I  recognized about 10 more that did not. At the conclusion, many people  stayed around to have conversations.

The  event was a huge win for the FSP and its participants. The democrats  saw the speaker’s lies exposed firsthand when perfectly normal,  well-dressed, and articulate people stood confidently and addressed them  as neighbors ready and willing to engage about the important issues  facing the community: health care, abortion, money and corruption in  politics, as well as the old standards of roads and police.

The central platform of the talk was dismantled swiftly.  The whole presentation centered around one fear-mongering goal: convince  the audience that the FSP was about secession. In the end, the speaker  admitted that the FSP pledge doesn’t mention secession, and that none of  the elected participants endorse the idea. Womp! In the end, the  audience rightly seemed to turn against the speaker for doing exactly  what she claimed the Free Staters do: intentionally mislead people.

Zandra said that “Granite State Progress”  started following the Free State Project in 2008 because they saw  people fighting tax increases and wondered how there could be such a  concerted effort to resist increased taxation. It turns out the  volunteer activists were early movers for the Free State Project.

She characterizes the FSP as an idea to move 20,000  libertarians to a state “with the stated purpose to take over state  government and dismantle it.” Where is this stated, you ask? In fact, is  isn’t in the statement of intent that participants sign. Zandra made  this up to scare her audience and spur them into helping the democrats  gain more political power. It worked. The whole room gasps audibly at  the word “secession.” Apparently a lifetime of propaganda has made  having bad housemates more palatable than having bad neighbors. Why are  establishment democrats fighting to maintain political union with Free  Staters?

Around  75-100 people were in attendance. Here are some of the slides Hawkins  used during her presentation. Note that the nowhere in the Statement of  Intent is the word “secession” used, nor is the idea of “taking over the  state and dismantling it.” Instead, it aims for the “creation of a  society” and “the protection of … life, liberty, and property.”

Hawkins explains that early movers help new movers find jobs, places to live, and even have a ritual of showing up in the dozens to help people move into their new homes  — sometimes in under 1 hour! She explains that is a part of building a  social connection and insinuates that it is somehow nefarious and done  for some ulterior motive. In reality, it is about people celebrating and  welcoming newcomers to a community of people who, like them, once felt  isolated and alone for their strongly held affinity for living free and  independently.

Another evil endeavor masquerading as a social good is the Lakes Region Porcupines  food drive, Hawkins explains. She says that this is something the  porcupines do in order to gain credibility and trust from the community,  insinuating that this act of charity, too, is done with an ulterior  motive. In fact, many “porcupines” (FSP participants) enjoy being  charitable because 1) it makes them feel good inside, and 2) it reminds  people how communities can look out for each other without “the state”  acting as middlemen. Of course, the state takes a cut when providing for  the needy. Direct charity by individuals is far more efficient because  there is no middleman.

Hawkins then goes on to inaccurately associate organizations such as CopBlock, FreeKeene, and the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance as arms of the Free State Project. They are not. Credit where due, though: she is correct that PorcFest and Liberty Forum  are officially FSP events. Their websites are clear about that. But the  other organizations are founded by people who love freedom and have no  ties whatsoever to the FSP. FSP President Matt Philips even publicly denounced FreeKeene in a blogpost  to the FSP website last year in an attempt to separate the organization  from the hardcore liberty activists in Keene. Obviously, that didn’t  work. People like Hawkins are still falsely connecting the two.

To clarify, FreeKeene is a popular blog. It has 20 authors from across the Shire and some from afar. All of them are named and pictured on their website. Its “About” page describes the site as “link to news about liberty activism focused mostly on the Keene area, (but also from around The Shire),  opinions, ideas, media, discussion, and most importantly action about  how we can end government aggression and replace it with voluntary  alternatives, thereby achieving liberty in our lifetime.” No mention of  the FSP. Being a mover is not a prerequisite for becoming a blogger at  FreeKeene.com, although many (not all) of the bloggers moved to New  Hampshire as participants of the Free State Project. Go figure, the  people who picked up their lives to move and achieve liberty in our  lifetimes are the most active. Many outsiders wrongly associate all  activism happening in Keene as being FreeKeene-related or organized by  Ian Freeman. These people usually can’t comprehend of decentralized,  non-hierarchical groups where anyone is free to create, promote, and  host an event. They assume everything that happens in Keene comes from a  top-down command-structure beginning with Ian and ending with a  non-existent army of minions.

Next, Hawkins makes the claim that CopBlock started in  Manchester, New Hampshire. It didn’t. And technically, it doesn’t have a  “location” because it is a website. Ademo Freeman and Pete Eyre created  the site in 2010 while living in Keene. The co-founders moved there at  the conclusion of their “Liberty on Tour”  trip across North America. Copblock.org is a decentralized website  comprised of thousands of articles about police accountability  contributed by hundreds of people across North America. Hawkins says she  supports police accountability, but that “we’ve seen reports of them  [CopBlock] defecating on cop cars and that sort of thing.” She makes  this claim with no supporting evidence, of course. Just take her word  for it. A professional political researcher and speaker like Hawkins  wouldn’t make up lies in order to vilify and denigrate people with whom  she disagrees, would she? Granite State Progress wouldn’t want to be  known as an organization that publicly slanders other organizations,  would it? Hopefully Hawkins will have the integrity to publicly correct this misstatement and apologize for spreading a falsehood.

She goes on to make the accusation that the so-called “FreeKeene activists” were harassing meter maids in Keene. Another lie. Harassment is a crime, and no one even remotely associated with Free Keene has been charged with it. They call themselves “Robin Hooders,” and they generously donate their time and their nickels to save people from getting parking tickets.  The bureaucrats in Keene didn’t like that because they lost out on tens  of thousands of dollars per year in expected “revenue” from the  tickets. The Robin Hooders  were never charged with any crimes, but instead were charged civilly.  The bureaucrats spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring private  investigators to record the Robin Hooders in action, private  high-powered attorneys to take on the case, and paying various court  costs to take the issue to District Court (where they lost), Superior  Court (where they lost again), and finally State Supreme Court (where they lost a third time).  With all of this time and money spent on the Robin Hooders, one thing  is certain: if there were a criminal charge the bureaucrats could pin on  them, they would have. They never did, because the Robin Hooders never  harassed anyone. And all three levels of the state judiciary agreed with the activists.

Hawkins lists more complaints about the activists in  Keene: “They get up in people’s faces, they play drinking games at city  council, they had signs that say ‘School Sucks’ outside of schools, and  were topless in public.” Okay, one at a time. “Getting up on people’s  faces” is totally false. On several occasions  (all on video), members of the general public have physically  threatened the activists in Keene and gotten inches away from their  camera lens, and in some cases, touches it. In my case, my camera has been physically removed from my hands twice downtown by Keene natives, and in one case it was destroyed. In at least three different cases, police brought criminal charges against the people attacking videographers. It’s they who get up in our faces, not the other way around. We just want to be left alone. Next: playing drinking games at city council  is about making something boring into something fun, not about  provoking law enforcers into making arrests. Nobody wants to be  arrested, unlike Hawkins claims. She says the activists provoke arrest  for things like wearing hats in court in order to gain respect from the other activists. This is not true. We are individuals who demand to remain unmolested, and court bureaucrats and police employees act like bullies  who won’t keep their hands to themselves. They’ve even dragged two of  my friends away across the floor of a courtroom for refusing to stand  for the judge. Some civility. Signs advertising school sucks: School Sucks  is a podcast and website promoting self-education for individuals of  all ages and is particularly directed to middle and high-schoolers. It  makes sense to advertise this free material to students as they leave  school for the day so they can discover educational material on their  own that is fun for them and helps connect them to a wider community of  self-teachers. And finally, topless in public:  totally legal in Vermont, baring one’s chest is one gender double  standard Democrats are perfectly happy to defend. “Women should not be  allowed to bare their breasts in public,” they insist. “If they do, they  should be punished.” How progressive! What noble defenders of women’s  rights would hurt a woman for walking the earth as she was created?

She introduces the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance under the headline  “FSP Political Arm.” This is misleading. The FSP issues no orders and  holds no political positions. It is strictly a vehicle for moving  libertarians to New Hampshire. That’s it. Once here, many FSP  participants choose to get active in politics. Many do not. A large  number are even morally opposed to voting. Whatever their level of  activity, there is a wide variety of views on all issues. Many members  and directors of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance are FSP  participants, true, but that is a natural consequence of political  migrants concentrating in New Hampshire. The NHLA was not started by  Free Staters. It is the most effective organization for achieving more  individual freedom in the state, therefore many political migrants  decide to join. To call it a political arm of the FSP is not accurate.  In fact, the NHLA rates many Free Stater state representatives poorly  for their votes on liberty-enhancing legislation, and many Free Staters  criticize the NHLA for pandering to establishment Republicans by  refusing to address controversial issues.

Hawkins explains that Granite State Progress created a specific arm called “Free State Project Watch”  with the goal of tracking and exposing all participants in the Free  State Project who run for public office. She says, “They’ll run for  whatever is most advantageous so we have to research all of them. With  400 seats in the state house that means a lot of candidates.” For this  effort, I cannot thank her enough. Her organization compiles a list of  known Free-Stater candidates, and since Free Staters are extremely  likely to be politically active and vote, it helps us save time learning  who we can count on to be reliably principled freedom candidates. I  can’t possibly know all the FSP participants running for office, so  Hawkins’ work is a terrific help. She complains, “One duo of [Free  Stater] roommates both ran and flipped a coin to see who would be the  Republican and who would be the Democrat.” This concept terrifies  Hawkins and the other Democrats. They’re so invested in group-think and  “us vs them” mentality that they will continue to be fooled by this  simple exploitation of their in-group preferences. Ignorant voters who  go to the polls to pull the lever for whatever blue or red candidate is  on the ballot will continue to unknowingly elect Free Staters because  they can’t be bothered to research the candidates or think outside the  left-right paradigm. If the 2016 elections taught us anything, it’s that  young voters are totally disenfranchised by political parties, they  don’t trust them after what the Democrats did to Bernie Sanders, and  they are hungry for candidates with bold new ideas — not more of the  same. Free Staters offer fresh new ideas, sound philosophical  principles, and consistent policy with no regard for political party  alliances.

The thing that seems to scare Hawkins and the Democrat  party leaders the most are politically successful Free Staters who run  as democrats, or don’t advertise that they moved to New Hampshire as  part of the freedom migration. The strong focus on this during the talk  hearkened back to the McCarthy days where virtually everyone was a  suspected communist. They’re terrified that they’ll discover Free  Staters among their fellow democrats — as if there can be no commonality  of vision — as if we don’t all want increasing prosperity, good  healthcare for our aging parents, safety for our communities, quality  education for our children, and clean environments for recreation.  They’re also afraid that Free Staters will succeed in seceding from the  wise and noble rule of Washington, D.C bureaucrats and their agents.

An announcement period begins at 7:45pm, and the MC for  the evening explains that a Q&A will follow shortly after. He opens  the floor for any announcements. Mike Nader, a cartoonist who publishes  in the New Hampshire Gazette, announces he is selling a paperback book  of political cartoons for $15, and that $5 from every sale made during  the evening will be donated the Rockingham County Democrats, and he’ll  keep the rest. Hawkins announces an upcoming event called NH Progressive  Summit, some kind of Democrat conference happening at one of the local  colleges.

The Q&A portion of the event begins. I would have liked to see a  panel of porcupines answer questions from the audience rather than  Hawkins fielding every one, adding her own spin to each response.  Hawkins didn’t need to lie to scare her fellow Democrats. The honest  answers from Free Staters would have been enough to terrify them, but  that opportunity was lost. Instead, the Q&A led to more suspicion  that Hawkins was being intentionally misleading in order to besmirch the  Free Staters but instead succeeded in discrediting herself. At this  point, I will share my notes from the discussion rather than type out  verbatim each word spoken by the attendees. The quotes are not exact.  They are summaries. To listen to audio of the discussion yourself, you  can pick up the recording above at about 1 hour in.

Q: “Tell us about the assault on district court in Keene. I hear they do lots of frightening court stuff.”

A: “The activists there promote Jury Nullification, which  is a real thing, but they advocate it not for what it was originally  intended, but for small stuff like pot possession. Sometimes they wear a  hat in court, which isn’t allowed, to get arrested. That gives them  martyrdom status. In other parts of the state, Grafton town meeting was  made too long because they would add amendments to cut the budget.”

Q: In a “libertarian utopia,” what happens if someone is murdered?

A: “We joke at Granite State Progress every time it snows.  I say, ‘Did you see any Free Staters out plowing the roads?'”(She  laughs at her own joke but no one joins her). [The implication, she  explains, is that Free Staters don’t have solutions for real-world  problems like murderers or snow. She does not offer one of the 10+ Free  Staters in attendance to answer.] “The real answer,” Hawkins says, “is  they believe in privatizing all services. The free market will bring  solutions. One Free Stater State Rep named Elizabeth Edwards said during  a discussion about healthcare that Yelp could replace the FDA by giving  people reviews on which to base their decisions for a heart surgeon, or  some other medical need.” The audience is silent.

Q: “How could they think privatization is the answer when privatization in the US is a growing problem?” (Unanswered)

Q: What would a Free Stater do if they were in an airport  using the bathroom, and they saw a guy strapping bombs to his vest.  Would he report him to some government agency or say nothing?

A: State Rep Eric Schleien answers, “Yes, of course I would report  it.” Just because I would prefer an alternative to the TSA or any other  government organization doesn’t mean I will ignore the methods we have  in place today. Besides that, airports, like malls, already have their  own privately-paid security who are trained to protect the airport while  the TSA regularly fails 95% of security tests.

Q: Why did they choose New Hampshire as the destination for their libertarian migration?

A: Because they can get power in legislature.

[A few old women are repeatedly throwing me the stink eye  and a nasty grimace, so I calmly look into their eyes and smile until  their gaze is averted.]

Q: How have the Free Staters changed the views on gun laws? (I missed the answer to this)

A local Exeter man rises to say most people in FSP would  never run for office and that FreeKeene is not representative of the  FSP.

Hawkins insists Free Staters running for office is a big problem because they are so effective and they win elections.

Democrat State Rep from Newington Dennis Malloy stands to  ask a question. He says he moved to New Hampshire from another state but  he thinks that other people shouldn’t do that. He doesn’t like that the  Free Staters are coming from other places and running for office in New  Hampshire. He says it’s like the Twilight Zone episode “to serve man”  where the aliens come not to benefit his new neighbors but to eat them.

Q: What is the FSP position on drugs and prostitution?

A: “FSP participant Elizabeth Edwards, a Democrat,  sponsored legislation to legalize prostitution.” (Laurie McCray, the  head of the Portsmouth Democrats, gasps audibly.)

Q: Question from audience for Free Stater State Rep Eric Schleien: “Does he support secession?”

A: He says if it were up for a vote, he would vote against secession.

Q: (From Laurie McCray) “Then why did you join FSP?”

A: (From Eric Schleien) “That’s not in the pledge!”  Hawkins clarifies that secession isn’t actually in the FSP pledge, as  she had insinuated.

Q: “Why do Free Staters drive on the right side of the  road?” (This question is ignored, as it was presumably meant to be  rhetorical, implying that Free Staters have no regard for following any  rules. Obviously, this is silly and is rightly disregarded.)

Q: “Where does US Constitution and the FSP intersect?”

A: (Hawkins) “Free Staters are organized and ideologically  driven. They take political power ‘surreptitiously’ without making  their votes known. They think all drugs should be legal.”

A man in the back stands to ask:

Q: “So, the FSP pledge says secession, right?”

A: (Hawkins) “The word ‘secession’ is not in the pledge.  That comes from a post by Jason Sorens when he proposed the idea of the  FSP.”

Q: Local man who self-identifies as a Democrat stands up  and calls BS on Hawkins. He says you can’t paint everyone in the FSP  with the same brush because they all have different views and goals.

A: Hawkins says she disagrees completely and completely ignores her fellow Democrat’s point.

Q: One Free Stater rose and said: “Jason Sorens didn’t  start the project. People did. Jason wasn’t even a mover until recently.  All he did was write a senior thesis for Yale that other people decided  to enact.”

A: Hawkins calls the man out for not identifying himself  at beginning. He responds by imitating Joe McCarthy by saying, “I hold  in my hand a list of 50 known members of the communist party who are  among us” and says the speaker is pigeon-holing people with labels  instead of focusing on the issues. Hawkins is visibly shaken by this.

Q: (From audience) “Does he want to change ‘our’ government?” (Left unanswered)

Hawkins admits she moved from Washington state to New Hampshire for a campaign job 14 years ago.

Q: “How can Free Staters want more things privatized when there’s so much corruption and money in politics?”

A: FSP man stands in response to say the government has been used as a tool of the rich to further enrich themselves.

Q: Man named Lincoln asks about moving to a small state.  Says, “They’re here to take over.” He’s very afraid of more getting  elected and taking over the state. “We have to resist and we should fear  them. It’s OUR state.” The audience applauds.

The event concludes. Most people stay and talk one-on-one  in small, spontaneously organized groups until about 9:15p, by which  time basically everyone is gone.

In conclusion, Hawkins invented and repeated lies about her  neighbors, the Free State Project participants, in order to scare the  democrats and whip them up into a frenzy so they will put effort into  identifying candidates who are participants and resisting their election  to local government. She failed. Instead of anger and passion, Hawkins  inspired doubt.

Pictures available at http://thederrickj.com/3838