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June 06. 2014 3:24PM

Friction between Free Keene liberty activists and anti-Free Keene group heats up

KEENE — Police are chalking up a brouhaha this week in Central Square to an ongoing conflict between Free Keene and Stop Free Keene.

“There’s this silly little nonsense over chalking,” Keene police Sgt. James Cemorelis said Thursday. “One group chalks one message, another group chalks another message and another group gets frustrated that the community is littered with this chalk and they go out and wash all the chalk off.”

It’s an ongoing issue that flares up when the weather is nice, Cemorelis said.

Police responded to a disturbance in Central Square at 6:43 p.m. on Tuesday to find Matthew Oldershaw, 30, of Keene bleeding from the head. He was taken by ambulance to Cheshire Medical Center. Police said Oldershaw suffered the head injury when another man pushed him into the granite fountain in the square.

“We have a picture and some video and we’re trying to get a positive identification on who the assailant is,” Cemorelis said.

About 10 people were in the square that night. Members of the different groups said they don’t know who the assailant is, Cemorelis said.

Reportedly, Oldershaw is a member of Free Keene and he was arguing with a woman who was in Central Square Tuesday night to wash off chalk drawings and writing. During the argument Oldershaw grabbed the woman by her arm, that’s when the unknown assailant jumped into the situation and pushed Oldershaw, Cemorelis said.

“It’s tough. They have different political and life philosophies and they all meet in the Square and their personalities end up clashing,” Cemorelis said.

Free Keene is affiliated with the Libertarian-minded Free State Project.

City Councilor Randy L. Filiault has proposed an ordinance to limit graffiti, including chalking, in the downtown area.

“With the recent spike in graffiti vandalism in the downtown area, I am requesting a discussion with city staff and the appropriate standing committee to research the possibility of an enforceable graffiti ordinance,” Filiault wrote Tuesday in a letter to fellow councilors.

mpierce@newstote.com


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