City Sues Good Samaritans Who Feed Strangers’ Parking Meters
May 20, 2013
A group of six self-described “Robin Hooders,” who estimate they’ve saved about 4,000 New Hampshire motorists from parking tickets by feeding their expired meters, now faces a lawsuit in the small city where they’ve been active since December.
The small band of residents, local members of a larger New Hampshire libertarian movement called the Free State Project, play a cat-and-mouse game with meter maids in Keene, N.H., looking for parked cars in front of meters that have expired. Staying about 20 feet ahead of the city’s small squad of ticket-writing meter maids, they re-up expired meters and leave behind calling cards that show an image of Robin Hood on one side and a quote — “We saved you from the king’s tariff! — Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” — on the other.
In the suit, the city’s three meter maids complain the Robin Hooders have “regularly, repeatedly, and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated” them by “following, surrounding, touching or nearly touching, and otherwise taunting and harassing.” The suit asks the court to order the group to keep a 50-foot distance from the meter maids — at least one of whom has complained of getting heart palpitations from the stress — at all times.
The group’s members have told various media outlets the city is having to stretch the truth in order to make claims like that, noting that none of them has been charged with harassment.
“The Robin Hooders have always been courteous in my experience,” defendant Ian Freeman told NBC News. “The city is upset because they are losing revenue and are coming up with anything they can to try to stop it.”
“I don’t follow them home or try to find them off duty,” defendant James Cleaveland, who knows the meter maids by name, told Reuters. “They always use the excuse ‘I’m just doing my job.’ I always say ‘I’m just doing my activity too.’
“It’s my philosophy. I could go talk to the city council at every meeting but to me, actions speak louder than words.”
Those actions are a lot more popular with residents in the “Live Free or Die” State than with the city. The group’s “Free Keene” Facebook page has nearly 5,000 friends, and drivers quoted in local and national reports favor what the Robin Hooders are doing — and the spirit in which they’re going about it.
Bailing people out of $5 parking tickets isn’t the toughest fight the Free State Project’s Keene chapter has waged. The group has also supported relaxing drug laws by publicly smoking marijuana in a downtown protest. In 2009, the group protested attacks on the 2nd Amendment by having a half-naked woman walk through the city armed with a holstered handgun.