- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The New Hampshire city of Keene is suing “Robin Hood and His Merry Men” — a group that has made a name for itself by putting coins in people’s parking meters before parking enforcement agents can slap them with a ticket.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reported this week that the six “Robin Hooders” named in the suit troll downtown Keene — often tracking parking enforcement officers — in search of cars parked at expired meters.

When they find one, they pay the meter and slip notes under the windshield wiper of the vehicle that says: “Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king’s tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” The note includes an address where people can send donations for the effort.

The city claims in the lawsuit that the “Robin Hooders” are taunting and harassing the city’s three parking enforcement officers and causing them so much anxiety and distress that they’ve considered leaving their jobs — an outcome that would force the city to pick up the tab for hiring and training replacements.

“They say video recording or talking to them is harassing them, but I don’t agree with that,” James Cleaveland, a member of the group, told the Union Leader.

The city is asking the court to establish a “safety zone” that blocks these six “Robin Hooders” from coming within 50 feet of the parking agents. The city said that will allow parking enforcement officers to do their job without interference, and denied it was trying to prevent members of the group from “exercising their constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit claims that since December, the group has “intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed and intimidated” the parking enforcement officers “by closely following them on foot and in automobiles in groups of one, two or more, often with video camera equipment and coordinating their activities using radio communication.”

In an affidavit, one of the parking enforcement officers said the group has harassed her: “Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets, these individuals repeatedly taunt and harass me, asking why I am stealing people’s money and telling me to get another job,” the officer said.

Another officer said he had been “bumped into, and taunted” by the group, “including profanities and derogatory statements relative to his military service.”

The “Robin Hooders” counter that the city — population of just over 23,000 — is upset because it is losing out on revenue.

They claim to have prevented thousands of tickets from being issued.

The Union Leader reported that the group is tied to Free Keene, which describes itself on its website as a group of people who have realized that government is “the violent monopoly” and says that “aggressing against one’s neighbors, regardless of the goals one is looking to accomplish, is unacceptable and morally bankrupt.”

“The next great step for mankind is the step toward the voluntary society,” the website reads. “We are going to accomplish this using peaceful, market-based actions. This is not a revolution. We are not revolving, or going back to the beginning. This is evolution.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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