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Keene mulls graffiti rules following 'chalking' assault

Union Leader Correspondent

June 11. 2014 8:35PM

KEENE — Central Square chalking assault victim Matthew “Yankee” Oldershaw said he is facing surgery to fuse together several of his vertebrae.

“I’m suffering a definite setback,” he said Wednesday. “A lot of nerve damage.”

Oldershaw, 30, said he is the president of the Free Party Union, an offshoot of the Occupy movement. The group decided to host a chalking event — creating smiley faces on sidewalks — because a number of the events have been held and met with positive response, he said.

He said families, including several children, were creating chalk art in the square the evening of June 3 when he was approached by businesswoman Dorrie O’Meara.

Oldershaw said he never grabbed O’Meara’s arm as some have reported, but was arguing with her when he was punched and pushed by a man.

Members of Free Keene posted footage of the event online. Several members have identified the assailant, Free Keene member Ian Freeman said Wednesday. Police have not yet arrested the man.

Though police characterized the incident as being a clash between Free Keene and Stop Free Keene, members of both groups said the incident didn’t involve members of either group.

Kimberley Diemond, a member of Stop Free Keene, said her group is not chalking or washing away chalk. Diemond said Monadnock Community Coalition has adopted Central Square, re-painted the bandstand and cleans away any chalking.

A proposal from City Councilor Randy L. Filiault to limit graffiti downtown was to be discussed by the Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday night.

Committee Chairman James Duffy said before the meeting that he believes the assault on Oldershaw and chalking are separate issues.

“My understanding is there are a lot of issues at play here,” Duffy said, including free speech.

Whether chalking could be considered graffiti would have to be clarified, he said.

Oldershaw said he is planning to hold a chalking event in Central Square at noon on Saturday.

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