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KEENE, N.H.—My first interview with the city's antigovernment activists is happening in an RV that, technically at least, is breaking the law. The RV houses the "Liberty on Tour" project and often parks in Keene, and today, as it's been for many days, it's parked next to the home of Free Keene co-founder Ian Freeman. "The city doesn't allow RVs to park like this," says Freeman. "But they require a complaining party, and no one in the neighborhood is complaining. Now, theoretically, anyone from the city could complain. They know what's going to happen if they do. We're going to make a big deal about it. We're going to go to jail."
So far, 909 people have fulfilled the pledge and moved to the state, and around 50—Freeman thinks—currently live in Keene. (These people are serious about privacy.)
That number undersells the impact this city and these activists have on their movement. Freeman's FreeKeene.com is a catalog of arrests, protests, and inspiring interviews, most of them in Keene. This is where one activist, Pete Eyre, spent days in jail for wearing a hat in a public hearing, and another activist, Heika Courser, was arrested for displaying her breasts after an artist painted them
It took a while for the political press to decide what to make of the Free Staters. In 2007, when they were even smaller in number, they started to be looked at as a source of strength for Ron Paul's presidential campaign. In 2009, as the Tea Party movement got under way, reporters discovered that the FSP and its annual PorcFest (the porcupine is the mascot of the project) offered this stuff in its concentrated form. In 2011, people noticed that Free Staters had been elected to the New Hampshire legislature and were introducing bills to decriminalize marijuana and classify TSA groping as sexual assault. They soon received the ultimate honor—being attacked by progressive groups as a "radical right" and Koch-connected plot.