Manchester students say videotape of arrest was not planned
But Mike Proulx, 17, says when he saw Detective Darren Murphy approach his friend Frank Harrington in the school cafeteria last Monday, he did think about the two men he and Harrington recently met who call themselves CopBlock and encourage civilians to videotape police officers.
So Proulx pulled out his iPod Touch and hit record.
What happened between Murphy and Harrington led to the student's arrest and an internal investigation by the Manchester Police Department, expected to be completed early this week.
Adam Mueller and Pete Eyre, the founders of CopBlock.org, said they met Proulx and Harrington by happenstance a few weeks ago at a park on the city's west side. They told the youths about their crusade to encourage people to film police officers on the job and gave them a DVD featuring videos of their activities in New Hampshire and other states.
Proulx said the two men talked to the teenagers about 'how police officers overuse their authority and their badge.'
So when he saw the police officer approach Harrington that day, Proulx said, 'I had that idea in my head, 'Do like CopBlock. Maybe I should record what happens.'
'That's when the whole incident took place, and I was just astounded that I caught it all on film.'
Manchester police Officer Steven Maloney, vice president of the Manchester Police Patrolman's Association, said he's '100 percent' convinced that Detective Darren Murphy acted appropriately in the incident. He called Murphy 'a great officer' who volunteers with Police Explorers because 'he loves working with kids.'
Maloney said many officers believe those involved with CopBlock set up the confrontation at West.
And he said the group's organizers may face charges for recording phone calls to the police department and the high school in violation of the state wiretapping law.
Mueller and Eyre both came to New Hampshire as part of the Free State movement, but spend much of their time traveling around the country in a bright yellow RV they call their MARV, for Mobile Authority Resistance Vehicle. They live on donations and paid messages on the RV from other 'liberty' groups.
They started CopBlock in February 2010. They've been active in Keene for some time, but turned their focus on Manchester after four off-duty city police officers were accused of beating up a man outside a bar. This past May, the New Hampshire attorney general cleared the officers accused of beating up Christopher Micklovich at the Strange Brew Tavern
Mueller and Eyre were among eight people arrested in June for 'chalking' messages such as 'Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights' on the Manchester police station. Their trials are later this month.
Recently, they've been conducting 'patrols' in Manchester, using police scanners and cameras to find and film police traffic stops. They say it's all about holding police accountable.
After Harrington's arrest, Proulx said, he found the CopBlock RV parked on the West Side and left a note: 'I met you at the park. I have a video I feel you would be absolutely interested in.'
Mueller contacted him through Facebook, and later that night, Proulx and Harrington brought the video to the CopBlock guys, who interviewed the two teenagers in their RV. The day after the incident, they posted a 5-minute video on YouTube; by Saturday it had generated more than 126,000 views on YouTube and 125 comments on unionleader.com.
The adults gave them CopBlock sweatshirts, Proulx said. 'We brought so many viewers to their website; they said, 'You're giving us publicity we don't usually get.''
Harrington also says what happened last Monday wasn't a setup; he didn't even know Proulx was taping until later that day, he said.
Monday's incident started when Harrington took his sister's makeup bag after another student told him she had taken his candy. He said he 'thought the whole thing was a joke.'
It was only when the assistant principal told him he was suspended from school that he reacted, he said. 'I cursed because I just didn't think it was right I was suspended.'
On the video, that's when Murphy returns to where Harrington is sitting, grabs him and pushes him facedown onto a table to handcuff him.
'The only time I was yelling at him was 'cause he was throwing me around,' Harrington said. 'I was saying this was police brutality and assault when he had me on the table.'
He said he didn't act differently because of CopBlock. 'I would have said the same things.''
But later he said CopBlock 'made me more aware of how to deal with a situation like that. If I didn't meet CopBlock ... I don't know what I would have done.'
Mueller, 28, has a criminal record. In his native Wisconsin, he was convicted of dealing drugs when he was 19 and later spent 29 days in jail for violating his parole when he was caught with 'a dime bag' of marijuana, he said. Both convictions are felonies under Wisconsin law.
Mueller denies any resentment toward the criminal justice system.
Eyre, 31, grew up in Oklahoma and Minnesota and came to New Hampshire in 2005. He calls himself a 'voluntaryist' - 'I believe all interactions should be consensual' - and a 'modern-day abolitionist' - 'Right now everyone who pays taxes is a slave.'
Eyre believes in 'self-government,' but rejects the idea that he's advocating anarchy. He said he feels at home in New Hampshire, which he describes as 'a Southern state in the North, minus religion.'
'People are self-sufficient, but they're there to help you out if you need a hand,' he said.