Next time, bring chalk to the sidewalk

It seems that there’s an issue with people drawing on the sidewalks in Keene. At least a city councilor thinks there is. Now there’s talk of a sidewalk-graffiti ordinance. This has prompted an interesting response from an organization that lobbied for New Hampshire’s buffer zone law.

From the New Hampshire Union Leader, June 19, 2014, by correspondent Meghan Pierce:

The issue came to a head on June 3 when a man holding a chalking event in Central Square was assaulted and severely injured. In a letter to the Keene City Council, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union said such an ordinance would be a violation of freedom of speech. “The NHCLU certainly understands the City Council’s concern about this serious confrontation in one of the most prominent areas of the city. But I also hope that the city’s response is not to broadly suppress peaceful speech in public places — including speech that is political in nature and is necessary to a functioning democracy. Here, perhaps the more tailored response to this act of violence would be to more aggressively enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit the precise physical confrontation that occurred on June 3,” wrote head attorney of the NHCLU, Gilles Bissonnette.

Ummm …

The NHCLU was represented at the buffer zone hearings in Concord by executive director Devon Chaffee. Ms. Chaffee made no suggestion that a more “tailored response” to peaceful pro-life witness would be to enforce existing laws near abortion facilities.

Laws against illegal parking or disorderly conduct, for example, or laws against trespassing. or laws against harassment or simple assault. That’s assuming that any such activity might have been taking place. Law enforcement agencies reported no evidence to back up such an assumption. Remember, no law enforcement officials could be found to testify this year to the legislature that they had even been called to make arrests outside abortion facilities in New Hampshire. Planned Parenthood’s alleged “sixty complaints” from 2013 resulted in zero arrests – not surprising, since the “complaints” were made only to PP employees. A Seacoast abortion provider who recalled “trouble” was referring to events a generation ago, as committee questioning made clear.

There was no violence and no police action in New Hampshire to make a “buffer” necessary. The push for a buffer zone came from abortion providers and from legislators eager to accommodate them.

“Tailored response,” indeed.

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