Free Staters call out Concord officials for language on BearCat grant application
Carla Gericke, president, Free State Project, speaks at a rally to protest Concord Police's proposed BearCat vehicle on the Concord City Hall front steps on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
CONCORD — The president of the Free State Project Monday called for the resignation of city officials who described her group and two others as domestic terrorists in a federal grant application to pay for an armored vehicle.
Speaking at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Carla Gericke said even if the application is amended to remove any reference to the Free State Project, Occupy New Hampshire and Sovereign Citizens, the money should be returned to the federal government.
Gericke said Concord Police Chief John Duval, City Manager Thomas Aspell and Deputy City Manager Brian LeBrun lied in the application they signed for the $258,024 Department of Homeland Security grant for the BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck).
"Because we have ideas that are slightly different to yours," the group should not be described as domestic terrorists, Gerlicke said.
Gericke said private citizens who lie on a grant application can be prosecuted and public officials shouldn't be excused.
"They got caught in that lie and now they are backpedaling," she said. "They cannot make enemies out of peaceful people."
Photographer and store owner Brian Blackden said if the argument is that the BearCat protects police officers, a better use of the money would be a better grade of body armor.
"The police already have one in the city," said Blackden, referring to a New Hampshire State Police vehicle; there is another armored vehicle 20 minutes away at the Manchester Police Department.
But Duval has said Concord Police would be acquiring the BearCat for use by the Central New Hampshire Special Operations Unit, consisting of 20 communities, the Merrimack County Sheriff's Office and Plymouth State University.
State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, and State Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield, who are not Free State Project members, spoke of the dangers of the city acquiring a BearCat.
Lambert questioned the need for what he called militarizing the police.
Pamela Ean, a foreign language teacher at Merrimack Valley High School who said she moved to New Hampshire before the Free Staters but for the same reasons, said an online petition opposing the BearCat seeks signatures from Concord residents at www.nomoreBEARCATS.com.
Opponents of the BearCat acquisition predominated in the public comment session at the Aug. 12 city council meeting on the BearCat grant money; a decision was put off until the Sept. 9 meeting.
Ean said the petitions will be given to members of the City Council on Sept. 7.