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Commentary :: Environment
Porcupines' creating a prickly situation in N.H.
22 Dec 2003
Come to New Hampshire, where all our police are easy going and drug use among schoolchildren is at least tolerated if not condoned.
People of America, are you unhappy about the perceived heavy-handedness of your state's law-enforcement agencies? Well, come to New Hampshire, where all our police are easy going and drug use among schoolchildren is at least tolerated if not condoned.

That's the message the Free State Project, whose members have dubbed themselves "Porcupines," is sending to the people of South Carolina in the wake of a raid last week on a high school there. Reports are that police officers forced more than 100 students to the ground during the school raid and handcuffed some of them, but that ultimately no drugs were found.

The Free Staters, who earlier this year voted to make New Hampshire their target state for developing a more libertarian form of government -- encouraged by the welcoming support of Gov. Craig Benson -- are using the South Carolina incident to recruit more individuals to the Granite State. Free Staters are angered by what project officials call this "egregious overstep" of government powers.

The ads the Free State Project is running in the Southern state show a grainy surveillance video of the raid, with the voice-over saying: "Some people feel this is an appropriate way to protect our children. ... You may feel there's a better way. We think you're right. Discover for yourselves how the members of the Free State Project have pledged to make a difference."

The contact information refers to the project's offices in New Hampshire.

First of all, we believe this ad is misleading. There have certainly been raids on high schools in this state, some involving the use of drug dogs and some form of student control, although not as extreme as in the South Carolina incident.

But more importantly, while no one condones the use of excessive force in dealing with schoolchildren, the ad is meant to attract people who are angry enough to pick up and move to New Hampshire in search of a less-difficult law-enforcement environment. We're not sure those are the kind of people we want coming here.

It appears the ad is trying to appeal to that "fringe" element that already has a problem with law enforcement and governmental control. Otherwise, the message would be: "Stay in South Carolina and make a difference."

The group, which is now being touted in the national media as "New Hampshire-based," also appears to be trying to attract those who would favor legalizing drugs. We're not sure the vast majority of Granite Staters agree with that position -- at least not for all illegal substances.

When the Free Staters decided to come to New Hampshire, we applauded the addition of another voice to our already diverse political system. We envisioned an internal debate over the nature of our own state's government.

We certainly never thought there would be an outreach program that would portray New Hampshire as home to those committed to lax law enforcement or the legalization of drugs. That improperly depicts who we are and leads others to make improper judgments based on that.

We urge the Free Staters to become more involved in making a difference within New Hampshire rather than using their adopted state as a tool for an outreach campaign that could attract a less law-abiding, more fanatic element to this area. We ask them to find out who we are, listen to our views and find out where changes would be possible and welcome before going outside the state to bring in people who don't necessarily reflect the New Hampshire way of life we all came here to enjoy.
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