Arrests of Pete Eyre

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There have been five arrests of Pete Eyre by police in the course of his voluntaryist activism. These arrests occurred in Jones County, Mississippi (14 May 2009), Greenfield, Massachusetts (1 July 2010), Denver, Colorado (29 August 2010), Keene, New Hampshire (24 January 2011), and Manchester, New Hampshire (4 June 2011). In some of these cases, other activists and/or property were also seized by the police. Eyre writes, "I've never sought to be kidnapped and caged. Yet that’s happened five times not because I harmed person or property, but because I asked questions of those who operate as if they have extra rights."[1]


Jones County, Mississippi

Eyre's arrest in Jones County occurred during the Motorhome Diaries project, in which Eyre, Jason Talley and Ademo Freeman had set off in search of freedom in America in their 30-foot 2000 Four Winds Hurricane dubbed the M.A.R.V. (Mobile Authority Response Vehicle). They were pulled over by James Atkins of the Jones County Sheriff's Department ostensibly because he had trouble reading their temporary tag. (In a 24 November 2009 incident report, Atkins asserts that there was a "tag violation".) Atkins asked about the contents of the motor home and its passengers. Eyre informed Atkins that there were two disassembled handguns in the vehicle, locked in a gun case and kept separate from the ammunition.

Atkins noticed Ademo Freeman video-recording the events and ordered him to stop filming, which Freeman declined to do, stating that he wanted to hold everyone accountable. Atkins had Talley and Freeman get out of the vehicle. Jones County deputy sheriff Abraham McKenzie arrived and ordered Freeman to stop filming. He then grabbed the camera from Freeman and handcuffed and arrested him for disorderly conduct. Atkins later claimed that he was concerned that the camera could have been a disguised firearm. It was also later found that while the camera was in possession of the police, the footage of the incident was erased.[2]

Atkins announced that he would be searching for drugs, and contacted a K-9 unit to initiate the search. The officers asked Talley about his travel plans and demanded that he produce identification. Talley declined to answer the questions and exercised his rights pursuant to Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada and Brown v. Texas not to produce identification. They then ordered him to place his hands on the motorhome; when he declined, they doused him with pepper spray, grabbed him in a chokehold, tackled him to the ground, and forced him into handcuffs. The officers also refused his request for water to wash the pepper spray out of his eyes.

Atkins then placed Eyre in handcuffs. Mississippi State Trooper Chris Walker arrived with his dog and, after leading the dog around the outside of the vehicle, claimed that the dog alerted to the presence of cannabis by sitting down opposite a storage compartment near the left rear end of the motorhome. The officer threatened Eyre with 35 years in jail and physical damage to the vehicle unless he turned over the key to the storage compartment. Eyre gave him the key, and Atkin informed him that he would be going to jail. The officers conducted a warrantless search of the storage compartment (which included unscrewing an interior panel), all of the containers in the compartment, and the rest of the motorhome's interior. They found an unopened beer, which they claimed was in violation of laws against beer possession in a "dry" portion of Jones County. The physical evidence (i.e. the beer) was ultimately not preserved. They also claimed that Eyre had committed a federal offense by carrying the disassembled firearm across state lines.

The police had a tow truck take the vehicle to another location, where a more intrusive search was conducted that resulted in $600 of damage to the vehicle, including the tearing of molding from the the interior bulkhead and tearing apart of portions of the seating. The officers accused their detainees of being white supremacists and "Ron Paul radicals". They were booked into Jones County Jail and held for 10 hours, until acquaintances posted bail for them. They were forced to pay a towage and impound fee of $500 for the motorhome. Because they did not have immediate access to the motorhome, they had to stay at a motel for $120. They also had to pay $1,750 in traveling expenses to return to court and $9,000 for criminal defense fees.

Due to the false reporting of a gun charge on Eyre's record stemming from the Jones County events, Eyre was later detained by the Canadian Border Service Agency for five hours, and their motorhome was searched by Canadian officers and dogs. They were denied entry to Canada.

In response to the conduct by the police, the three retained Danks Miller & Cory and filed litigation pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act against Jones County and the State of Mississippi. They ultimately got the charges dropped.[3] The Jones County Justice Court, noting that the case had been dismissed, issued Eyre a check for $200 in bail money.[4]

Greenfield, Massachusetts

On 30 June 2010, activists Rich Paul and Mark Capuzzo were arrested. Fellow activists who called the police station inquiring about the charges were told that information could not be released.[5] It eventually was revealed that they had been charged with possessing cannabis and a handgun.

On 1 July 2010, Eyre and Freeman went to the Franklin County, Massachusetts Jail to bail Paul out. Eyre's exhaustive account of the ensuing incident notes, "Knowing the harshness of man-made legislation in MA toward victim disarmament we put out a call via Porc411 before leaving the ‘shire and asked if anyone would let us leave some property with them. Thanks to some friends this was done." Specifically, Massachusetts legislation only allows firearms and ammunition to be carried by those with a Firearm Identification Card.

Eyre and Freeman arrived at the jail and were asked by jail personnel about their ties to the Phoenix-based activist 4409. They confirmed their friendship with and support for 4409. A supervisor at the jail told the staff to allow the Eyre and Freeman to film. After being told the amount of the bond, Eyre and Freeman went to a nearby grocery store to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine. At the store, Greenfield Police Department officer Todd M. Dodge told them that audio recording him was illegal in Massachusetts. They inquired whether they were being detained and when told that they were free to go, transacted their business at the ATM and returned to the store.

At the jail, Eyre and Freeman were told that they could no longer film there due to the need to protect the privacy of the others in the lobby. They inquired about the reason for the change in the decision from 15 minutes earlier, when they had been told they could film, and asked why the police but not others were permitted to film. They walked outside and were told that unless they turned off their camera they would be arrested for trespassing. When Eyre and Freeman did not immediately comply, the officers arrested them and took their cameras. During their stay at the jail, they were not given any blankets, despite the cold temperatures that made sleep impossible. They also were denied the ability to make a telephone call, despite repeated requests.

Freeman was charged with felony wiretapping and resisting arrest. Eyre was charged with those same charges as well as a felony firearms/ammo charge and a misdemeanor charge of vehicle identification number manipulation. Neither was charged with trespassing, as had been threatened earlier. Their vehicle was searched and towed. It cost them $285 to get it out of impound, which included $180 in towing charges — $90 to have it towed to the Greenfield PD to be searched, and another $90 to have it towed to the impound lot. Freeman recorded a video showing the disarray in which the officers had left the vehicle's contents following the search.[6] Eyre wrote later, "We were shocked that these men broke into our home and destroyed our property with no cause. This was a clear sign of retaliation as opposed to justice, which they purport to uphold, being served."

The two requested that their cameras and cell phones be returned to them and were told that they would have to wait until the conclusion of the court proceedings. They bailed Rich out and took him back to New Hampshire.[7]

Denver, Colorado

Eyre and Freeman were questioned by police concerning their offering and handing out free beer to passers-by at Invesco Field. Officer J. Pinder requested Freeman's identification and arrested him when Freeman asked for an explanation of the legislation requiring him to obey this demand, rather than immediately obeying the officer. The officer also seized as evidence the camera that Freeman had been using to record these events. Pinder also entered the MARV over Eyre's objections and arrested Eyre for asking the officer questions before furnishing his identification. Freeman was charged with 38-31 Interference, 38-32 Resistance and 38-89 Disturbing the Peace. Eyre was charged with: 38-31 Interference, 38-31c Disobedience to lawful order and 38-89 Disturbing the Peace. The confiscation of the camera equipment put Eyre and Freeman's Liberty on Tour project in jeopardy, but two days later they were about to get their equipment back.[8]

Keene, New Hampshire

On 24 January 2011, Eyre was arrested for wearing a hat in a courtroom. It was duly noted that a Keene police officer was allowed to wear his hat into the courtroom.[9]

Manchester, New Hampshire

On 4 June 2011, Eyre and Freeman and six others were arrested outside the Manchester Police Department. The rationale was that some of those present had used children’s chalk to write on the sidewalk and building’s exterior walls, resulting in graffiti and criminal mischief charges, and that some were part of a group that didn’t move fast enough when pictures were being taken of “evidence” (chalked statements), resulting in disorderly and resisting charges.[10]