Tens of Thousands of Responses to My Arrest at a Romney Event in New Hampshire

by Matt B. on January 16, 2012

Over the past several days, I’ve been astonished at the response to my arrest at a Mitt Romney event in New Hampshire. Folks from around the country have written with offers of legal assistance, and the incident has sparked intense discussions around civil liberties and campaign tactics across the internet. It’s been tweeted thousands of times and shared on a variety of social networks even more. Here’s just a sampling of the coverage:

Huffington Post. (Over 1,300 comments!)

Buzzfeed.

Buzzfeed again. (This time with comments from teh arresting officer.)

Nashua Telegraph. (The story made the front page of Saturday’s edition.)

CBS Boston. (The facts in this account are incorrect; I was never given a chance to speak to the owners of Gilchrist.)

Concord Monitor.

Commonweal.

Common Dreams. (Front page.)

DailyKos. (Thousands of shares, 400+ comments.)

DailyKos follow-up. (100+ comments.)

ActNow.

FireDogLake.

Somerville Journal.

On January 15, I was a guest on AWOP (A World of Progress) Radio.

This site alone has received more than 25,000 unique visitors in the week since my arrest. And countless other blogs – across a variety of political positions – have reposted the story.

* * *

I’ve spent the last week doing almost nothing other than responding to blog comments and trying to make sense of what all of this means. Many more thoughts to come on all of that.

 

  • Guest

    Sounds like you are getting the attention you are seeking Matt. You should get a copy of the arrest report and post it so we can see the other side of the story…I mean you are just trying to be honest and impartial, right?

  • http://twitter.com/JerryMander Karl

    What is your bias here? You republican primary voters are universally rabid whack jobs.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Hi Guest. I appreciate your interest in getting as much info as possible about what happened. Here’s the only other thing I have right now (though I’ll be sure to share everything else I learn): http://www.buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/arresting-officer-at-romney-event-says-student-ha

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    I appreciate your support, Karl, but I don’t think that’s fair.

  • Vandoctor78

    Matt, I am officially fed up with you.

    As I posted for all to see in your original arrest posting, your blog story here does not match the one you posted on HuffingtonPost. You gave a reasonable explanation that it was a backend server management issue and you could not change it, AND YOU SAID YOU WOULD. Now I don’t know what your excuse will be now, but clearly the backend is fixed. Maybe you honestly forgot. Which means you at the very least have terrible memory functions which makes your arrest testimony suspect.

    You also say above that this has raised civil liberties issues but in our discussion you agreed the arrest was legal and about campaign tactics and ethics instead. So have you changed your mind?

    You say you want to promote civil discussion but you are unable to be consistent in your thoughts and actions. I THINK YOU NEED TO SERIOUSLY CONSIDER PLAYING ANY PUBLIC ROLE IN POLITICS. If I were Harvard I at least would seriously examine if your behavior is in the fine tradition of the Kennedy School of Government and whether or not there is a way to reform it or decide to give up on you entirely.

    Meanwhile, best of luck with the self-promotion. It will get your face out there. And if I were any candidate from any party and recognized you, they should decide whether you are welcome at their events to.

    Have a nice day.

  • Vandoctor78

    Correction: Divinity School. Point still stands, if not even stronger considering the critical role of honesty and intellectual rigor in the religious realm.

    Full disclosure: I am a civil libertarian and Unitarian and I am ashamed of you.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    I did change each of the first two posts to make them parallel with the HuffPo post. The additional paragraph reads: 

    “My reason-seeking brain couldn’t take in what was happening. I had come here to be a part of the primary process, to see it first-hand and to write about it. I had already attended events with Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, and Newt Gingrich (and I would later see Ron Paul and Buddy Roemer). In each of these instances, I had come to understand the candidates and their views better and had developed greater respect for each of them. And I fully expected that the same would happen with Romney.”

  • Vandoctor78

    I should have screen-shotted them before you just now made the change. Pathetic, Matt. Real pathetic.

    More importantly you just dodged the critical point which is you agreed with me this is an ethical issue, not illegal infringement of your civil liberties. You said it was about decency, and I agreed. But you persist framing it disengenuosly.Have you no morals? Have you even studied ethics?

    I am a Democrat and even I can see that your dancing around this issue to create an illusion of injustice, while it may not have a motive of an intentional smear campaign, it is similar in effect. I wonder if Romney’s camp hasn’t responded yet because they are thinking of how to frame it negatively against you. Or maybe they have and you’re not sharing it yet. Most likely is that they are laughing at your obtuseness and compiling a folder to use at some point to show how extremely deluded we civil libertarians can be.

    Bottom line, I don’t want incompetents like you on my side. I want you out. Your disingenuous behavior has earned you one watchdog at least: me. I will be monitoring and commenting on your site as I feel is necessary. Ive never done anything like that in my life, but this is an important exception.

    This is the last I will comment on this particular topic unless new material develops.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Vandoctor, this kind of personal vitriol has no place here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susanne.freeborn Susanne Freeborn

    Shaming others is not very Unitarian, I have to say.

  • Vandoctor78

    Re-read the Doug Walton quote I shared about the appropriateness of ad hominem. Then review this, which you wrote:

    “I’m currently thinking about how to raise the quality, rigor, honesty, and inclusiveness of public conversations in America.”

    I fight for those things. So this is not personal, it’s ethical.

    Think through the logical consequence of a world you want to live in. Apply some intellectual rigor, and understand what your actions and the heat it generates could lead to, and that’s aside from just the character-smearing conservatives will engage in to discredit civil libertarians as they would do here. Let’s pose a hypothetical consequence of where misplaced outrage about your case could lead to. Strap in, and welcome to Matt’s World…

    Let’s say OWS develops further. Their public marches continue till next January. Fundraising skyrockets. Their General Assemblies are getting so big they just can’t function with mic checks anymore. And there has been a blizzard. They have one choice: move inside to meet, or shut OWS down for a few weeks. There are pressing political issues on the table involving proposed new bank legislation, so organizers decide they have to meet indoors.

    Like with all previous GA’s, consensus will be determined when 90% agreement is reached. As with previous gatherings, all are welcome. I am psyched, and I am there.

    We’re all at Madison Square Garden, ready to go. 9000 strong. Just as the GA is about to begin 1010 Wall Street bankers show up saying they are there just to learn and observe. Here’s what happens next…

    All the bankers can be easily identified because they’ve chosen to wear top hats and monocles. And according to the new laws about public discourse, they are carrying signs that say, “Bankers For Protecting the Status Who, Here to Learn and Observe.” The GA tolerates their presence at their private party, and begins to vote on the issues by raising hands. Again, 90% of those present have to agree. But then each time a vote is attempted, 9000 hands are for, 1010 are against.

    “Wait”, the assembled wonder, “why are the bankers voting? They said they were just going to observe.” The bankers say that is entirely their intention, but like all participants invited to a private gathering open to the public, they observed until they were asked a question about their opinion. They didn’t see any harm in answering a question. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about. And being asked to leave? Why, what are they doing wrong, they wonder?

    The meeting organizers look at each other. They look at the police they were required by local city law to hire for a large public gathering (to everyone’s surprise many, many police support them, as they are human after all). They can’t get any movement on their voting. Each time they kindly ask the bankers to only observe the gathering as their protest signs promised, they stay passive. The only movement they make is to raise their hands when a vote is called. They say they showed up and intended just to observe, but then once each moment hits where there vote is asked for, they answer. They’re just trying to be polite. Clearly they are being obtuse, but boy, the OWS folks give them credit cuz these bankers are sure behaving in a friendly decent manner (which, this time should not have surpised anyone, as they had already learned with the police support, they are only human too.)

    In your world, the police now begin to apply the lengthy training received on the practices of mediation and arbitration, a skill now mandated for them to practice by a sub-article of the new Matt Bieber Constitutional amendment legally known as the “Protect All Certified Observers at Private Functions Open to the Public Being Held on Private Property Amendment.” This Amendment was inspired by the website that had hosted the Matt Bieber Case (you of course know that one of the sites you link to above mentions your case as raising Constitutional issues, right?).

    The cops begin the process. The event organizers provide their testimony to the police, the bankers give theirs. Arguments are made that there is a clear difference between voting and observing. Arguments are made that a GA is not the kind of private event open to the public that the Amendment was meant to cover. But, the bankers argue, prior practice by OWS shows that while they were in a purely public space, their behavior was no different. The cops don’t know what to do: let the bankers vote, kick them out, shut down the convention? This wasn’t in the training manual.

    So, Matt, your original post said you were arrested and still trying to figure out why. The Amendment I describe would have covered your ethical sensibilties, and as you know, laws are nothing if not an enshrinement of ethics. So now that you have had time to think about it, what exact new law do you want to govern such private functions in the future where they are stated as open to the public for observers and participants, just as my OWS example was? Yes, it was an absurd piece of fiction, but what it begs you to consider is that once you try and construct a system to govern political practices on private property I have no doubt someone will game it, intentionally or not (like I said, the bankers were without question obtuse, but incredibly respectful and behaved).

    So I guess, to your professed love for rigor, I ask you, how do you want your personal experience to change the world? Should campaigns have to give footnotes on promotions for private events saying they have the right to remove anyone for any reason including mistaken identity? Fine, I will support that 100%. I am not joking. At this point I will donate my next modest paycheck to make sure I never have to hear about this issue again and can nip it in the bud before it leads to my hypothetical.

    So, my question stands, how EXACTLY should the world change? You’ve had more than enough time to think about, you’ve read all the comments (one which strongly agrees with me, so at least two of us are curious), so what do you want? That footnote on ads and press releases seems like a pretty measely accomplishment.

    We clearly disagree on what “raises the quality of public conversations in America.” You’ve started a conversation, and while you may or may not want to be the leader of a cause, it is leading somewhere. If you had a vote on the matter, where do you want it to lead?

  • Vandoctor78

    Susanne, thank you for your succinct contribution to the discussion. That is a critique of my personal behavior, and I endorse your right to do so. As Doug Walton has argued, “ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, and that in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue [12], as when it directly involves hypocrisy, or actions contradicting the subject’s words.”
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

    I can see how someone would perceive my method as conflicting with my principles.
    http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml

    But that’s why I listed Unitarian second. My advocacy for America’s civil liberties as currently practiced outweighs my practice of those principles. How could that be? Because those liberties protect my right to have those principles, develop them in private, and change them should I desire. To be a hypocritical idiot. Am I following each proscription exactly, exercising constant love and compassion at all times? Clearly not. But as a Unitarian I am also charged to confront injustice, which I perceive any possible infringement of mine or other’s civil liberties to be. There is a tension between the two, which I admit, but that is why I am welcome in the Unitarian church. They welcome everyone. Church, to some, is for sinners after all.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Thanks so much for this, Vandoctor.

    I’m not a legal expert, so I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense for me to weigh in (at least just yet) about how I’d like to see the law look.

    More than anything, my experience has reinforced the idea that campaigns are often way too timid. I want to be part of a public that responds vocally when campaigns try to pre-screen citizens from participating in political events. I want to help establish a new norm according to which campaigns encourage all citizens to attend and participate in their events, rather than trying to ferret out the ones that might not agree with their candidate on everything. 

    If we had that kind of attitude governing our political campaigns – a bravery, an openness, a readiness to engage in real dialogue – that would be a pretty big win.

  • Vandoctor78

    You have my complete support in that effort. Let us all know how we can help. And you have my contact info, please contact me personally anytime with directions.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GW3KKVYWKDZQSO4P36LE4FFEGM everarden

    Stay courageous, Matt.  I’m sorry for what you went through, but I am glad you have gotten the support and attention you have.

    Hang in there!
    Mollie

  • Grand Guignol

    You must have a copy of the arrest report. Is that something you’d be willing to share?

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    I’m sorry, Grand Guignol, but I don’t!

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Me too, Mollie. Thanks!

  • Guest

    I ask you Matt, are you trying to have open and unbiased political events so voices can be heard? Ironic because your participation in another sector (the media) is just as much a problem of not putting the complete truth out there…I wonder what the Romney Campaign, private business or police blogs would look like if they addressed your experience from their side or through their eyes…

  • Guest

    You can contact the police department and get a copy. Arrest reports are public record.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Thank you, Vandoctor.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    I agree that there are lots of big problems with the media. Are you suggesting that there is a problem with my account of events, though?

  • Guest

    I do. You paint this picture like you are a victim. What are the facts and how even your headline reads, you aren’t being forthcoming. Were you asked to leave? How many times? Under what grounds did you feel the need to question a uniformed officer about his authority and what capacity he is employed? Do you think he would make an arrest if he felt it was unlawful? HPD is a nationally accredited agency. See what history they have with the public and how they operate before making them sound like the Gestapo. The only beef you could have is that you were removed by the wishes of the Romney Campaign for their own reasons. The officer was doing his job and unfortunately for you, it didn’t inlcude having a discussion about the wishes of the campaign. Because his job is to keep order. Had you been assaulted, I’m more than sure the officer would have acted in manner appropriate to protect you and make a necessary arrest on your victimization. What would you have done if the officer instead escorted you to the end of the company’s driveway? Would you have made a scene about him lawfully escorting you off the property? They made their decision and had you removed. You were advised several times to leave and finally after being told you would be arrested (He could have arrested you after your first refusal to leave). He tried to explain his role there to you and have you leave. But you refused. After fair warning. And you mention being fearful about the officer’s reaction…what were you fearful off? Were you manhandled? Did they yell and beat you down? Yet the police have violated your rights on PRIVATE property. You had no rights in someone else’s house. And have you contacted the officer after the fact to see if he would discuss the situation from his end? I’d love to see you answer all the questions I pose…

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Thanks, Guest. A couple thoughts: first, I’m by no means trying to smear the police. In fact, I have repeatedly defended the officers against commenters who have said things that I thought were unfair and, in some cases, mean-spirited. 

    I understand that the police were doing their job as they understood it. To my mind, what went wrong has mostly to do with the Romney campaign’s apparent desire to screen and exclude citizens from attending their events.

    As for my fear, no – I wasn’t manhandled or anything to that effect. Still, I had just been cuffed and searched – you can imagine how that would be a scary experience for someone.

    Many of your other questions were answered in the original post. But please let me know if anything remains unclear.

  • Bilbobaggins226

    What did they charge you with?

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    I was arrested for criminal trespass.

  • Guest

    How did the arraignment go Matt???

  • Matt

    Thanks for asking, Guest. My attorneys and I decided to plead not guilty and waive the arraignment (apparently this is pretty standard). Trial date to come.

  • Guest

    So the case is going to trial??? I hope you make the department look foolish for arresting you for no reason!

  • Mary

    So you still have the record that you were arrested on your record correct? Even though the charges were dismissed. I hope you see this, I just found your blog.

  • Mary

    The reason I’m asking this is my daughter was just arrested for criminal trespass for being in a car with a friend, drinking coffee, 15 min after sundown! The friend was arrested and handcuffed before ID was asked for! The whole situation was crazy…… Now she has to go and be fingerprinted and have a mug shot taken! There are sections of fence in the park but they are not “designed to exclude intruders” but apparently the arresting officer needs to carry a dictionary. Thus, she was charged with a criminal offense instead of a violation. Her attorney is suggesting an ADA, but for a year she will have this on her record, she may have to do community service and …..she was planning to apply to law school in September. All, because the officer did not know/understand the law he was enforcing! In NYS once you have been arrested it is never completly sealed and can be seen by certain agencies. Unfortunately in the court of public opinion if you have been arrested you are often presumed guilty and the question often is how did he/she get off. Oh, and the arrest will be published in the newspaper.

  • Matt

    No, the charge was expunged from my record. I think I had to pay an application fee and fill out a form in order to make that happen.

    Geez, I’m sorry to hear about your daughter! I hope everything works out okay.

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