New Hampshire Prosecutor Calls Protesters a 'Threat to the Public'
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Anti-war protesters, arrested for refusing to leave Sen. John H. Sununu's Manchester office, staged a "vainglorious event to gain publicity" and need to be held on some cash bail because the protest taxed police resources, causing a threat to the public, a police prosecutor said yesterday.
Officer Stephen Reardon said the Manchester Police Department supports the right of freedom of expression as long as it is done in a legal fashion. However, he said the state believes there will be a recurrence of the "criminal acts" and that $1,000 cash/surety bail is needed for the eight protesters who did not post bail set by a bail commissioner.
Manchester District Court Judge Norman Champagne, however, said state law calls for personal recognizance bail to be set for those who have no criminal records. Most had never been arrested before, although two had convictions for prior criminal trespass offenses.
A person granted personal recognizance bail does not have to put up any money.
The judge told Reardon as far as any further protest, "That, obviously, is for another day."
"We feel it's a threat to the public at large," Reardon continued.
Champagne told him they were dealing with the past and "not to conjecture about the future." He set bail at $1,000 personal recognizance for all of those charged in the protest.
John Fried of Peterborough, a volunteer with New Hampshire Peace Action which staged the protest, said seven squad cars, 12 to 15 officers and a transport wagon arrived at Sununu's Elm Street office about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday night to arrest the nine peaceful protesters. By then, the group had been inside the Senator's office for about nine hours. They were charged with criminal trespass.
Fried said at the police station, a bail commissioner, whose name he did not know, "lectured them on wasting the police department's resources" and set bail at $1,000 cash/surety. Police said Daniel Goonan, a former Manchester police officer, was the bail commissioner on duty.
Ann Isenberg of Bow, who participated in the protest and attended yesterday's court hearing, said none of those arrested had $1,000 on them. They expected to pay $30 -- the bail commissioner's fee -- and be freed on personal recognizance bail.
Only Patricia Wikzynski, 54, of 4 Academy St., Concord, made bail after calling her husband who brought the money down to the station. She will be arraigned at a later date.
The others were taken to Valley Street jail where they spent the night in a holding cell.
John Hutchinson, 85, of 227 Pleasant St., Concord, the oldest of the group, said it was "very sobering" to be in the jail.
The judge asked Hutchinson if he had any problems with bail conditions -- imposed on all of them -- which included staying away from Sununu's office and not doing drugs or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.
He said he has asked for an appointment with Sununu -- but he will stay away from his office if that is a condition. As for drugs and alcohol, he said he didn't use them.
"No, sir. I'm a fitness guru," the octogenarian said.
Anne Miller, 36, of 25 Laurel St., Apt. 2, director of NH Peace Action, said she and the other women were held in a 6-x-9-foot cell with narrow seats. At 7 a.m., they were all shackled and later taken to the court. They stayed in shackles for seven hours.
"It was quite something but worth the sacrifice for what we were trying to accomplish which was to continue to pressure the senator to change his position on Iraq and work to end the war," Miller said.
She and all the others pleaded innocent to the criminal trespass charge. The trials are set for July 26, 30 and 31.
Kristine Hobby, 62, of 1046 New Hampshire Road, asked the judge if hers and the other trials could be scheduled the same day. He said it was possible but their attorneys would have to work that out with the court.
Others arrested were: Nellie Grant, 71, of 67 School St., Tilton; Thomas Barker, 52, of 129 Lane Road, Laconia; Jordan Butterfield, 22, of 23 Washington St., Pennacook, and Mary-Lee Sargent, 66, of 10 One Stack Drive, Bow.
© 2007 Union Leader