Live Free or Move
Hanging out with the young kids who want to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian paradise.
"To me," explains Ademo Mueller, Eyre's friend and a partner on the Liberty on Tour trips, " 'jail' is driven into peoples' minds as a place you house bad people. To me, it's a cage."
"Theft is theft," says Eyre. "Murder is murder. Doesn't matter if you're wearing a uniform."
"Doesn't matter if people voted for you, either," says Mueller.
He's telling me this in an RV decked out—on the inside—with bumper stickers and slogans like "Evil Men Are In Control. Haven't You Noticed?" and "Do You Own Yourself?" and "1984 Was An Instruction Manual." There are Ron Paul stickers, and a signature from the man himself. Mueller shows me his contribution to the sticker stash: a promotion for CopBlock, the project and website he started, which encourages people to film police officers. Mueller joined the bus tour from Wisconsin, where he had two felony drug convictions, and had nothing to do.
"I spent three months in jail and 100 hours of community service," he says. "I paid my debt to society, and then I learned that it was a life sentence. I mean, I was living in fear of what would happen, because I was getting harassed by the police, just because I was defying them and they didn't like it. After I moved here, I lost my fear."
"I lost my anger," says Freeman.
"I'm a lot more outgoing than I used to be," says J.J. Schlessinger, who manages the Keene Action Center.
The conversation moves inside the center, a well-appointed house where Free Keene friends come to cook food. A calendar near a bar says who's cooking and when; on the other side of the room, a bookshelf has homemade jam and copies of novels by Ayn Rand. There are photos everywhere, taken by activists, of the rural beauty of the area, or commemorating times when Free Keene people defied open-carry laws or laws against smoking marijuana.
Heika Courser rolls up to the house on a blue Honda motorcycle then walks up to the porch. She's a Keene native who met Eyre and Mueller when they had parked their RV in the parking lot of the Starbucks where she worked. The "Free Staters" pissed her employers off, but not her; she struck up a conversation with Eyre and started hanging out with the Free Keene folks. Now she wants to run for city council.
"I don't have almost any of the same friends I used to," she shrugs, "but I get along with the people in the city council. They're getting used to us."
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph of Keene Action Center bookshelf and Ademo Mueller and Ian Freeman by David Weigel. Photograph of New Hampshire by iStockphoto.