City Sues Good Samaritans Who Feed Strangers’ Parking Meters


A group of six self-described “Robin Hooders,” who estimate they’ve saved about 4,000 New Hampshire motorists from parking tickets by feeding their expired meters, now faces a lawsuit in the small city where they’ve been active since December.

The small band of residents, local members of a larger New Hampshire libertarian movement called the Free State Project, play a cat-and-mouse game with meter maids in Keene, N.H., looking for parked cars in front of meters that have expired. Staying about 20 feet ahead of the city’s small squad of ticket-writing meter maids, they re-up expired meters and leave behind calling cards that show an image of Robin Hood on one side and a quote — “We saved you from the king’s tariff! — Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” — on the other.

In the suit, the city’s three meter maids complain the Robin Hooders have “regularly, repeatedly, and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated” them by “following, surrounding, touching or nearly touching, and otherwise taunting and harassing.” The suit asks the court to order the group to keep a 50-foot distance from the meter maids — at least one of whom has complained of getting heart palpitations from the stress — at all times.

The group’s members have told various media outlets the city is having to stretch the truth in order to make claims like that, noting that none of them has been charged with harassment.

“The Robin Hooders have always been courteous in my experience,” defendant Ian Freeman told NBC News. “The city is upset because they are losing revenue and are coming up with anything they can to try to stop it.”

“I don’t follow them home or try to find them off duty,” defendant James Cleaveland, who knows the meter maids by name, told Reuters. “They always use the excuse ‘I’m just doing my job.’ I always say ‘I’m just doing my activity too.’

“It’s my philosophy. I could go talk to the city council at every meeting but to me, actions speak louder than words.”

Those actions are a lot more popular with residents in the “Live Free or Die” State than with the city. The group’s “Free Keene” Facebook page has nearly 5,000 friends, and drivers quoted in local and national reports favor what the Robin Hooders are doing — and the spirit in which they’re going about it.

Bailing people out of $5 parking tickets isn’t the toughest fight the Free State Project’s Keene chapter has waged. The group has also supported relaxing drug laws by publicly smoking marijuana in a downtown protest. In 2009, the group protested attacks on the 2nd Amendment by having a half-naked woman walk through the city armed with a holstered handgun.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • steve

    where’s the aclu on this one. maybe they should feed the meter maids with donuts and coffee on the house. isn’t there modo live free or die.

  • ronpauler1

    And all the time I though the purpose of meters was to collect revenue for the city. Who cares who pays. Or is the REAL purpose of meters to create a different source of revenue…court fees and fines?

    • John Spencer

      There is one benefit which actually does benefit the motorists, even though they mostly see the revenue and fine collection side. That is that by making cars move on after a reasonable time, it make it possible that cars moving into the area stand a good chance of finding somewhere to park. If everyone was allowed to stay as long as they like, as a full extension of the Robin Hood program would allow, then you are shutting down the city center for late comers. From that viewpoint, they are doing motorists a disfavor.

      • DavBow

        Seems logical. However I believe that if that is the case additional parking should be offered.

        • John Spencer

          I’m sure they consider that – maybe.

      • SickOf BeingCoddled

        it should clearly state that on the meters.

        • John Spencer

          That was always one of the benefits they touted when they started these schemes. Maybe you were not around then.

  • Ron Parks

    Just another example of the government being a suppressor of the people when they are supposed to BE of the people. Hopefully these NH voters will fire their representatives who think the government is more important than the people it represents.

  • satelliter

    That is a pretty cool idea, paying expired meters for motorists. I would do the same in my city, except we don’t have parking meters, all parking is free.

  • Michael Shreve

    Meters normally are a combination revenue source and method of enhancing business transaction by keeping parking fluid. That’s why many jurisdiction mark tires. There can be no LEGITIMATE complaint about WHO feeds the meters. In most cases a ticket will be issued if a meter maid SEES a vehicle with an expired meter even if the meter is fed afterward.

  • txcowboy

    The Legal System in this country, from the smallest parking ticket to the crime of murder are all the same “about Money”… got , they want it, they’ll take it by force, or sell you freedom….once they hook you into the system, it’s hell to get loose. Our parole system in this country is designed to make them fail….keep’em paying!

  • Bruce Thompson

    Demanding a receipt after paying a parking ticket in Tarrytown almost got me arrested. They are famous for burying payments and denying you paid. Went well for them, until a witness stepped out of the hallway