Unlawful Puppeteering in Concord

Unlawful puppeteering in Concord

What:        Illegal puppet show

When:       Wednesday, April 23, 2008. Starting between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m.

Where:      Outside New Hampshire State House, 107 N. Main, Concord, NH
                (Near Main but out of pedestrians' way).

How:         "Outlaw Puppeteer" will perform "The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail,"
                As an act of civil disobedience against the state's prohibition
                On unlicensed puppeteering for profit.

Who:         Dave Ridley, 41, of NHfree.com.  Ridley is a Manchester videographer.
                Projected turnout is 20, mostly NHfree.com folks

Why:         Protest legislature's refusal to repeal unnecessary laws.


Dear folks at Concord P.D., Concord City Hall, the Attorney General's office and the NH Legislature:

Somewhere between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m. on April 23, I plan to commit an illegal act in Concord.  I will hold a puppet show, for profit, without government permission.  The show will be wholesome and unobtrusive.  But it will violate RSA 286:1.*   Conducting it appears to be a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.   Hopefully, it will draw some small attention to the neglected importance of repealing bad laws.

Earlier this year, the State House overwhelmingly voted down HB1347, a bill aimed at removing obsolete statutes.  There were problems with the bill's wording, but the fact remains Concord has declined to eliminate dozens - maybe thousands - of senseless laws which clutter our books at best and endanger our freedoms at worst.  The problem is milder in New Hampshire than most places.  But even here it's illegal to pick up seaweed off the beach.**  It's illegal to clean litter off the White Mountains without a permit.***  And, of course, it's illegal to grow hemp for even for the most constructive of purposes.

Some crazy state laws lie dormant and unenforced, others crowd our jails with victimless "criminals."   More appear upon the scene each year to confuse or strangle individuals and businesses.

After 200+ years of adding state laws (8,200 Kilobytes worth), it's time to reverse the curse.   It's time for Concord to start eliminating statutes instead of imposing them.   A sunset provision on all new laws would be nice.  A robust "repeal committee" might be an option.  Some statutes I can't argue with, but others hemorrhage tax dollars and prevent people from living their lives.  So I beg lawmakers:   Stop "protecting" us from peaceable commerce you don't approve of.  Stop saving us from G-rated puppet shows, rope-making plants and clean mountains.

We who cherish our vanishing freedoms are often told we should work within the system to achieve these ends.  But the system has just refused to carry out this repair.

Thoreau put it best:   "As for the means the state has provided me for changing it....they take too long, and a man's life will be gone."  So I will do what Thoreau did, and openly violate the law rather than wait for a repeal that may never come.  My intent is peaceable; I bear no grudge.  But I won't not stop until I am arrested or have amassed a thousand dollars in illegal puppeteering profits.   I will come back again and again until one of the above occurs.  And I urge other New Hampshirites to do something similar.  Don't mindlessly obey laws that harm the people, just because they are laws.

This event will occur outside the State House near Main.  So it may violate not only RSA 286 but also the prohibition against demonstrating without a permit on House grounds.  I'm ready to be flexible on this issue if we're not forced to request a permit, forced to leave the state house area or forced to stand in anyone's way.  But I'm prepared to face charges of demonstrating without a permit.

In any case, RSA 286 appears to ban unlicensed puppet shows for profit, not only on public property but everywhere in the state.  So it apparently would still be illegal to do this, even in your own home! 

Again, this is about more than the right to hold public performance.  It's about the need to reduce the estimated 100,000+ pages of often-harmful New Hampshire law, something we will never accomplish through conventional means.

Respectfully yours,

Dave Ridley

* Puppet Law:  RSA 286:1 - http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/xxiv/286/286-mrg.htm
** Seaweed law - http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XVIII/207/207-48.htm
*** Litter pickup law - http://www.ahajokes.com/laws029.html