18 May 2013

A Great Idea for Liberty Activism: Robin Hood Parking Vigilantes

Big Brother 19 Comments

Check out this news story:

KEENE – The city has filed a lawsuit against six citizens, part of a group dubbed Robin Hood of Keene that patrols downtown armed with video cameras and pockets full of change to fill expired parking meters.

Also known as Robin Hooders, the six are associated with the Free Keene group.

“They say video recording or talking to them is harassing them, but I don’t agree with that,” “Robin Hooder” James Cleaveland said of parking enforcement officers. “So they want to establish a safety zone of fifty feet.”

Members of the group place cards under windshield wipers that read, “Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king’s tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward,” and includes an address where donations can be sent.

Now I actually know at least some of these people–a lot of the people who live in Keene go to the Porcupine Freedom Festival (“Porcfest“)–and I asked them if they were being obnoxious to the meter maids. My general impression is that they were mostly being courteous, though admittedly people generally get uncomfortable with cameras.

Here’s a clip showing an educated young lad quoting Lysander Spooner to a guy who doesn’t really appreciate it, I’m sure.

I wish I had more time to devote to this story, but I’m too swamped with work. Anyway I just wanted to pass this along as a great example of a way would-be activists to get the message out in a way that is likely to win sympathy, particularly if everyone involved is courteous.

19 Responses to “A Great Idea for Liberty Activism: Robin Hood Parking Vigilantes”

  1. Jason B says:

    Several things come to mind here. I certainly think the Robin Hooders are performing a service to individuals parking around town. Not too many people really care for meter maids, so it should be fairly easy to garner public sympathy for their cause in the first place. On the other hand, the pushy gentleman does make a good point, one that could even further the Robin Hooders’ cause. If they were employed at a local business they’d have more clout to engage the pushy fellow. They could say something like, “We work in this town. We live here and we pay taxes here. We’re already forced to contribute to this meter man’s salary, and we’re also providing a service to the people who park in this area so they aren’t blindly taxed for something as simple as prolonged parking.”

    I suppose what I’m saying is that if they came off as more professional in their personal lives then I think the local government might have a more difficult case against them from a prosecutorial standpoint. It seems like it’d be fairly easy for the local government to file a lawsuit when the stereotypes of the Robin Hooders seems similar to the questions the guy was asking them, even though the jobless, tax-eater stereotype doesn’t exactly apply to these two Hooders.

  2. konst says:

    I almost feel sorry for the meter maids cause the Robin Hood group appears to be in very close proximity to them but maybe it just appears that way cause of the camera zoom lenses. I would appreciate what the group is doing if I lived there though they missed a few meters they could have saved by focusing too much on the maids.

  3. Valueprax says:

    It’d be interesting to see what kind of response they’d get if they practiced the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) method of Marshall Rosenberg.

  4. Sam Geoghegan says:

    I personally find filming people doing their jobs intrusive, whether you like what they’re doing or not.

  5. Darien says:

    So the takeaway message from Free Advice today is: don’t ever talk to the police, except to hector a meter maid. 🙂

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Actually no, I don’t think they should be hectoring anyone.

      • Darien says:

        Sure. It’s funnier my way, though!

        But much kidding aside: this whole deal reminds me of when cops started criminalising warning people about speed traps. I remember arguing with people about that; apparently, in crazy-think, warning people about a speed trap is somehow helping criminals to get away with their crimes. I guess the rationalisation for this will be the same — you’re helping those hardened villains get away scot-free with their depravity!

  6. Joseph Fetz says:

    Why is it that all more modern videos on the web these days have a strange effect where the image becomes wavy when the camera is moving? I mean, the image is crystal clear, but as soon as you make a dramatic change in the left/right panning, all of the sudden it’s like playdoh land.

    • Ken B says:

      Only the moving camera can detect the ripples.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        That’s actually pretty funny that you mention that, because in my head I was thinking, “is HD somehow able to detect slight differences in light speed, somewhat like the doppler effect with sound?”.

        Of course, I am sure that the answer is far simpler and probably mechanical.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Or software.

    • Rothbard's Bow Tie says:

      It’s from a digital artifact known as “rolling shutter” that happens because the image sensor isn’t recording a whole image at one time (like a film camera). As you note, it’s much worse during motion.

      Here’s a wikipedia entry on it:


    • LvM says:

      It’s a result of Youtube’s new image stabilizer.

  7. Ken B says:

    The real reason the city is upset is lost fines.

  8. Peter says:

    In NYC, dotgov is replacing the coin operated meters with machines that spit out little tickets that must be displayed in the windshield. So you must walk a half a block to the machine, toss in som coin (visa and mc accpeted for ” convenience”), get ticket, walk back a half a block, open your car and put the ticket so it’s visible for the cop. I don’t see Robin Hooders breaking into cars…
    When I was visiting Amsterdam, they had taken it a few steps further. Each parking space has a code. When you park, you can use your mobile phone to electronically (re)fill the parking meter associated with the code.
    No more anonymous parking for you, citizen!

    How about hanging pictures of Spongebob Squarepants in front of those red light cameras?

    • JFF says:

      Some municipalities in the United States have a similar system where you input the space number in the robo-meter and don’t need a ticket on your dashboard. No word on the “pay by mobile feature” although the lot at the train station near my place has the ultra-modern “shove a rolled up dollar in a numbered slot with a thin piece of metal” system.

  9. Shauna L. Hopper says:

    After they feed a meter, members of the group place a card on the windshield of the car that says: “We saved you from the king’s tariffs. Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” The card features the Disney depiction of Robin Hood as a fox.

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