Court protesters in hats are charged

MILFORD – Two protesters who failed to remove their hats in Milford District Court were charged Monday with disorderly conduct.

The two were protesting with a libertarian group that believes in limited government.

Corey Moloney, 21, of 29 N. Lincoln St., Keene, and Charles Gerlach, 19, of 161 Ashuelot St., Keene, came to district court Monday in support of a Derry man who is apparently part of the loosely organized movement.

According to court officials, Moloney walked into the courtroom with a winter hat on despite being asked repeatedly to remove the hat or leave. Moloney refused to do either and was arrested. Meanwhile, Gerlach was standing in the doorway to the courtroom with his hat on. Court staff asked him to remove the hat and get out of the way. Gerlach refused to move and kept asking why he had to remove his hat.

“He said ‘you are going to have to remove me yourself’ so we dragged him out,” said bailiff R.D. LeFebvre.

Gerlach gave a similar account in a statement e-mailed to this newspaper.

“I never entered the courtroom and stood off to the side and where the bailiff said I should stand if I wished to ask him an explanation for the hat ban,” wrote Gerlach. “When I asked what the reason for the hat ban is, he spoke of the rules written on piece of paper attached to the courtroom door as if this was a suitable explanation.”

A sign posted on the courtroom door does state anyone who wishes to enter must remove hats and head coverings.

Gerlach and Moloney pleaded not guilty and were released on personal recognizance. They are due back in court Feb. 25 for trial.

The men were with a libertarian group protesting for the release of Michael Barskey, 38, of 4 Martin St., Derry, who was facing charges for failing to appear in court Jan. 15.

“We think someone who hasn’t hurt anyone shouldn’t be in jail,” said protester Kat Kanning, who runs the New Hampshire Free Press, a libertarian newspaper.

Amherst police arrested Barskey on Jan. 2 and charged him with carrying a loaded handgun without a license and transporting a bottle of beer with a broken seal in his car.

Barskey will return to Milford District Court on March 12 for trial on all the charges.

In total, there were eight protesters at the court Monday around 9 a.m.

Among the protesters was Lauren Canario, who made headlines in 2007 for protesting the police’s right to ask for license and registration during a motor vehicle stop.

Canario, then 50, of Winchester, was pulled over in a speeding stop on Route 101A in October 2007.

She told Milford police officer George Durham that she had no license and registration and refused to identify herself. Then she flopped like a rag doll when police attempted to remove her from the car.

She was charged with disobeying a police officer, resisting arrest and driving after suspension. Her husband, Jim Johnson, captured the incident on a camcorder and posted the footage online.

Canario then refused to appear in court and ended up spending just over a month in jail.

Canario and Kanning participate in the Free State movement. The movement’s mission is to move 20,000 like-minded people to New Hampshire so they can create a society with a much more limited government.

Moloney and Gerlach did not identify themselves as part of the movement.

In addition to Canario’s arrest, there have been other recent examples of individuals challenging state laws.

On the Free Press Web site, there is an account of a Manchester man caught with marijuana who called the war on drugs “unconstitutional and inhumane.” There is another story about a man who held a for-profit puppet show in Concord without a license to call attention to what he calls “New Hampshire politicians’ perverse enthusiasm for passing, and maintaining, unneeded laws.”