President Barack Obama made his way to UNH in one of his last campaign stops for Hillary Clinton on the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 7, to encourage people to vote Democratically on the national and local levels. During that rally, several protestors occupied the free speech zone, but some did not.
Free speech zones have been a part of political rallies for decades, with one of the more memorable situations happening at the 2004 Democratic National Convention where protestors were secluded to a small wired-in area under a bridge.
On Monday, the UNH Police Department set up a free speech zone where protesters could carry signs and voice their opinions without interfering with others– except not everyone feels that their First Amendment Rights were being protected enough.
Brentwood, New Hampshire native Kimberly Morin attended the rally to protest Clinton, by holding signs that labeled Clinton and all the Democratic congresswomen and senators as being corrupt politicians. Morin runs her own website, New Hampshire Political Buzz, a right-wing page dedicated mostly to criticizing Democratic politicians in New Hampshire and across the country.
“I am protesting because it’s the American way,” Morin said. “We were just standing on the public sidewalk and a police officer threatened to arrest us for criminal trespassing if we didn’t get off the sidewalk and into a little pen because UNH has a free speech zone problem,” Morin said.
A video on Morin’s Twitter account showed her co-protestor, Dana Hanson, arguing with a police officer over her unwillingness to move away from the sidewalk and into the free speech zone. Both Morin and Hanson finally agreed to go back to the free speech zone after describing the situation as fascism and threatening to bring the officer and the police department to court.
UNH Police Department Chief Paul Dean reported that no arrests had been made on Monday and that threats of arresting any individual for criminal trespassing didn’t make sense because individuals on public property cannot be arrested for that crime.
Dean also said that he does not remember an instance where arrests had to be made in terms of people not staying within in the free speech zone. He said the reason free speech zones are set up is to keep individuals from blocking sidewalks. He also reported that aside from a complaint filed to the UNH Police Department by Morin, he thought that Monday was a complete success.