IN THE EARLY MORNING hours of June 5, Manchester police had a problem.
Callers and witnesses heard gunfire around the Pericles Club, a social club in the rough part of town near Spruce and Union streets.
As police tried to secure the area and figure out if the shooter was inside the club, a man started to walk down Spruce Street.
He was carrying a camera, and as police repeatedly told him to move away, he grew increasingly confrontational.
“Calm down,” the man told police.
“Hey why don’t you mind your business and do what you’re doing?” he said.
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Why don’t you calm the f- — down, dude.”
“I will take as long as I want to, I’m walking away.”
Police eventually arrested Marc Manchon, 35, of Allenstown, and charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. You can see it all on his NH Press Now Youtube channel, which has dozens of videos, most showing edgy confrontations with the region’s cops.
With camera running, he enters small town offices, city post offices and other government buildings. He stands outside the gates of wastewater treatment plants, defense contractors and other companies that do business with government.
He films people as they come and go. The camera irks people. They call the cops. Temperatures rise. Confrontations grow. And as the camera rolls, Manchon lets his viewers know they can mouth off to police with impunity.
“I put that out there for the public to see what they don’t see on their couch,” Manchon said in an interview.
Manchon is not the only one with a video camera and a hankering for police “audits.” His fellow auditors number into the thousands, he said. The movement has grown so popular, in fact, that YouTube channels critique the video “audits,” of course via video.
But this isn’t a First Amendment audit, or police audit. It’s cop porn. I grow amused watching while someone takes advantage of another person but feel trashy at the end of it all.
Manchester police brass wouldn’t agree to be interviewed.
“As far as I’m concerned, if you just answer their questions, give them what they want, they go away,” said Police Chief Anthony Burpee of Gilford, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police.
It can be intimidating, said Burpee, who prepared a memo for town officials after a crew appeared in Gilford. As they film, they are in a person’s face. That puts the person on edge, and at that point they’re not making their best decisions, Burpee said.
At a crime scene like the Club Pericles, Manchon seems to think it’s all about him, Burpee said. But in the meantime, police are trying to find the shooter and possible victims, secure evidence and keep Manchon safe.
“We’ve got a job to do. We don’t have time to explain when at a crime scene,” he said.
Manchon said his crime scene coverage is the real deal. He compares his videos to the canceled shows “COPS” on Fox and “Live PD” on A&E. He faults Manchester police for not designating an area where he could film. He calls the Manchester Police Department corrupt.
“There’s a divide between the police and the people, and I’m trying to bridge that,” he said. That will happen, he said, when police start respecting their oaths.
But what about respect on his part? He calls police tyrants and idiots. His rapid, high-pitched tone is aggressive and peppered with profanities.
He mocks police, at times telling them to not confuse their Taser with their handgun, referencing a fatal shooting earlier this year in Minnesota.
“You have to (mouth off),” he said. “People have died for what I am doing. All I’m doing is getting arrested.”
Manchon doesn’t like his name out there, though.
On his videos, he refuses to tell police his name. At one point he redacts a screen that shows his name on a police computer.
He pleaded with me not to report his street address or his family situation, worried about his own antagonists. Seems that if I were to exercise my First Amendment rights and report his address, he might have to call Allenstown police for help.
Manchon said his YouTube channel has 27,000 subscribers. He asks for money to help cover legal bills and other costs associated with his efforts. He quit his last job in HVAC sales and makes enough money to get by through his YouTube channel, he said.
Watch enough of the videos, which show cops eventually backing down, and you realize the First Amendment is pretty secure.
Other things worry me more — a crippling national debt, a country fraying socially and morally, our assault on the climate. As for Manchon, he said he doesn’t vote.
The videos do offer some lessons:
You don’t have to give police your name if you’re not under arrest.
Police will give their name and badge number on request.
You don’t have to answer their questions.
And there’s a delicious irony when people call cops for Manchon filming them even though they are constantly within sight of their employer’s security cameras.
Manchester is one of the few police departments to arrest Manchon.
On July 8, a Manchester District Court judge will hold a status conference on Manchon’s Spruce Street arrest, his arrest for filming outside the Goffes Falls Road post office last December, and a citation for walking in the road last August.
Two years ago, the city paid out $15,000 when it arrested a Free Keene activist for filming at a sobriety checkpoint.
“I’m going to fix that again, put them in the right direction, make them think twice” Manchon said. “They don’t like transparency. That’s what it is.”