Free State Project gathers in ManchesterBy DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 06. 2015 10:04PM
MANCHESTER — The Free State Project has taken its annual Liberty Forum to Manchester, hoping larger facilities can better accommodate the growing interest in the movement.
More than 500 people are expected to attend the 2015 conference, which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester.
“The attendance seems to be bigger every year,” said Sandy Pierre of Weare, a board member of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance ,who was helping staff the NHLA booth in the vendors’ room Friday.
Now in its eighth year, the 2015 conference is dubbed “Moved by Liberty.” The venue, which had been the Crowne Plaza in Nashua, may be new, but the principles of the event haven’t changed.
The Liberty Forum is an annual event put on by the Free State Project, a movement that seeks to attract 20,000 people to New Hampshire in the name of “Liberty in our Lifetime.”
Pierre was one of the early “re-settlers” to come to New Hampshire after participants selected the Granite State to be the home of the Free State Project in 2003. She left Oakland, Calif., about 10 years ago and witnessed the movement’s growth.
“It’s a radical concept to a lot of people — to relocate for political beliefs,” said Pierre. “But when people actually come here and start interacting with (us), they find out we’re normal people with jobs and families. We just feel strongly about this aspect of life.”
The Free State Project continues to recruit and get closer to the 20,000 signatures from “liberty-loving” people who pledge their intent to move to the Granite State once the participation benchmark is reached. According to the FSP website, the total stood at more than 16,100 entering this year’s forum.
One of the pledges came from Joe Rothrock, a 27-year-old from Sprakers, N.Y., northwest of Albany. Rothrock said he attended his first Liberty Forum last year in Nashua and had been looking forward to coming again this year.
“I was hoping to meet some people and find out more about what the Free State project was all about and it definitely did that for me. It gave me a good picture of what people here are all about,” Rothrock said. “We might not see eye-to-eye on some things, but pretty much everybody I’ve run into respects my right to believe different from them.”
Rothrock was carrying a handgun in a holster on his right side, which he said was partially to exercise a right he didn’t have in New York.
While the movement is not focused on the Second Amendment, Rothrock said gun rights are just part of the appeal that drew him to the Project.
“I’ve been in line with these points of view for quite a few years. One day, I just realized that I agreed with most of what they stood for,” he said. “I guess I would sum it up as freedom being government not getting too involved in personal lives. If what I’m doing isn’t harming anyone else, then I think it’s my right to do it.”
Free Staters are sometimes confused with anti-government activists, which former state Rep. Mark Warden of Manchester said is very misleading. Free Staters are about limited government.
“I was drawn to this concept of liberty in our lifetime,” said Warden, who moved his family here from Las Vegas in 2007. “I just thought New Hampshire held a lot of traditional beliefs and opportunities for people to grow their businesses and live their lives without heavy-handed government controlling every aspect of our lives. While we’re not there yet in New Hampshire, at least I still think it can be the paradigm for the other states for being the freest state.”