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NH protestors to regroup after Manchester arrests

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / October 20, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—Occupy New Hampshire protesters are planning to regroup -- and possibly relocate -- after a smattering of arrests in Manchester for criminal trespass.

The protesters plan to gather at midday Saturday in Manchester's Veterans Park, the site of Wednesday night's arrests, to plot a course of action.

Eighteen protesters were issued citations by Manchester police for violating a city ordinance prohibiting people from being in the city's parks from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., Manchester police said.

The 18 range in age from 19 to 56. Most are from Manchester.

Thirteen of the protestors left Veterans Park with their citations, which carry a fine of $50. But five who refused to leave were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. That is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

None of those cited or arrested Wednesday night have appeared in court, according to Manchester attorney Larry Vogelman, who has volunteered to represent the protesters.

Vogelman said he plans to challenge enforcement of the curfew.

"There are pretty strong free speech issues that trump curfews," Vogelman said Thursday.

Vogelman said he will ask staff at Manchester District Court to schedule all the cases on the same day. He said he has yet to file court documents in the cases because they still hadn't been docketed.

Occupy New Hampshire is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began Sept. 17 in Manhattan's Financial District.

The first Occupy New Hampshire meeting --or general assembly, as the group calls them -- was held in Concord's White Park on Oct. 9. It was at that gathering that participants decided to base the protest in Manchester.

"They may be looking to move to private property some of the local churches have offered," Vogelman said of Saturday's meeting.

Arnie Alpert, program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, was among three dozen people at the park at 11 p.m., but opted to leave when asked.

"I decided I didn't need to do that," Alpert said of entanglements with the law. He did commend the police for their courteous treatment of the protesters, from the advance warnings given to the actual issuing of citations and criminal complaints.

Protesters returned the consideration, actually lining up so police didn't have to round them up, Alpert said.

The decision on where Occupy New Hampshire will stage future protests will be made at Saturday's assembly, Alpert said..

New Hampshire's version of Occupy Wall Street, Alpert said, is distinguishable from those in other states because of the varying causes the protestors espouse.

"We've have a very active presence of people who are involved in the free state movement and people with a libertarian outlook, which leads to a different mix of issues and concerns," Alpert said.

Occupy Wall Street and similar demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country protest corporate influence on government and the concentration of wealth in a small percent of the population.