This Saturday, 9/17 at noon, activists will gather in Keene’s Railroad Square and play beer pong in protest of the open container ordinance. The event will be in the spirit of 2010’s Drinking Game, which resulted in my arrest in the city council chambers for “disorderly conduct”, but the charge later dropped. Inspired by the past actions, a new batch of movers to Keene will be taking up the banner of protesting the ridiculous ban on open containers of alcohol.
There are many towns and cities where open containers are allowed, including some right here in New Hampshire. Nearby Westmoreland, for instance, does not have an open container ordinance. The oppressive ordinance is just an excuse to target college students and poor people, give them tickets, and reap thousands of dollars into the system from the victims. It doesn’t stop drunk people from being on the streets, nor does it discourage them from drinking. The ordinance merely takes advantage of drunk people. It’s shameful and needs to be abolished.
I spoke with the beer pong event organizer, Bob Call, today about his motivations. He said, “I think the law is unjust and it’s ridiculous that you can sit outside at local businesses in Keene and consume alcoholic beverages legally, but not if you consume your own alcoholic beverage.”
I’m no attorney, and this is not legal advice, but if you are ever targeted by police for a suspected open container of alcohol, DON’T CONSENT TO A SEARCH! This is the number-one mistake made by the police’s victims. Law enforcement officers are trained to intimidate. If you are walking with a drink in a bottle or cup that is not clearly an alcohol container, the officer will likely approach and say something like, “I have to ask you to hand that over.” At that point, most people will hand it over, consenting to a search of their container.
Take note of the careful wording of the officer’s statement. “Have to”, plus it being spoken in an authoritative manner makes is sound a lot like an order. However, it’s not. He says “ask”. If you’re ever uncertain about what an officer is saying, you have a right to ask, “Is that a request?” or whatever other questions you want. If you are clearly carrying am actual beer bottle, that’s likely enough probable cause for a search, and they won’t have to ask. On the other hand, if there is no clear way they could know by looking that it’s likely a container of alcohol, they have to get your consent to search. Don’t do consent. Politely decline their invitation, ask if you are free to go, and walk away.
See you Saturday 9/17 at noon at Railroad Square in downtown Keene for the beer pong event!