On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, a Very Important Person was coming to Concord, NH, and he wanted to bring some ponies. Vermin Supreme had to file a lawsuit against the City to exercise his First Amendment “Right to Pony” at a book signing of another former presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Supreme, a political activist who frequently runs for office, is known for wearing a boot as a hat, and his platform has historically–and hysterically–included a pony for every American and mandatory toothbrushing. The pony is satirical commentary of a political system that rewards candidates who promise free benefits without discussing cost or practicality. A pony was clearly crucial to the day’s planned protest.
According to the complaint … Supreme is protesting the book signing because Clinton’s book ‘What Happened,’ which focused on the former presidential candidate’s 2016 campaign, ‘engages in a direct attack on to Mr. Supreme’s long standing political platform … wherein he advocates for the socialized distribution of equine companions to every American.’
Interestingly, the denial of the “Pony Permit” did not come from Concord’s health and licensing officer Eugene Blake, who allegedly told Supreme’s staffers there were no restrictions on having ponies outside of Gibson’s, but rather, in an act of typical bureaucratic overreach, the Concord Police Department had instructed Blake to deny the pony permit.
In the lawsuit, Supreme asked for injunctive relief to allow him to carry out his protest, as well as reimbursement for his legal fees and any damages that would be awarded during a jury trial.
Perhaps concerned the unconstitutional denial of the permit would end up costing the City a pretty penny, the decision to refuse the permit was dramatically reversed on Monday, and in a settlement agreement, it was announced that ponies would be permitted at the protest.
The weather played along for HRC’s visit: bleak, cold, gray, and wet. The queue outside Gibson’s Bookstore stretched for blocks on end, mostly women with hoodies pulled up or huddled under umbrellas. When I arrived, Vermin Supreme was working the line, reading excerpts from his upcoming book. Across the street, two parking spaces, TWO, were dedicated to the protest, one covered by a pop-up tent to keep protesters and the real pony dry. Three stuffed ponies had to brave the rain.
Protesters were a mixed bag. Free Staters like me, as well as Bernie supporters. On social media, someone criticized the “Health care is a human right” sign with this comment: “Ponies = awesome…. Why did someone have to ruin it with lies about having a right to the products of another’s labor?” I responded with: “I like that Vermin Supreme brings together people of different persuasions. When you’re pushing ponies, it ain’t no big thang if we don’t agree on how to solve politics…” Supreme chimed in with: “I run a big pony tent.”
Laughs aside, it is important to note that challenges to the status quo often create strange bedfellows. Since Vermin’s platform is performance art, I am less concerned in this case with being lumped with Bernie supporters, but for the record, I do not endorse actual ponies for everyone, Universal Healthcare, and believe everyone should decide for themselves how and when to brush their teeth (because under my system of personal responsibility, if you let your teeth rot, only YOU are responsible).
Watching the patiently waiting HRC sycophants, I wondered aloud, “Hillary must have writers’ cramp by now, signing all those books.”
“Maybe she has a stamp?”
“Maybe she has her people do it for her?”
“Then she only has to dot the ‘i’s.”
“And cross the ‘t’s.”
The truth is more mundane. A thousand tickets were pre-sold (at $30 a pop, way to go, Gibson’s!), and the books were pre-signed, although HRC did, apparently, customize a few.
It was a sight to behold, and the press of New Hampshire agreed. Most of the news coverage went to the protest (Union Leader; Concord Monitor; Nashua Telegraph; NH1). My favorite headline was the Monitor’s “Outside book signing, a dogged pony show.” Poor Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, tweeted in response to the Union Leader’s Trent Spiner’s comment, “Did anyone foresee the day when Vermin Supreme and his pony got more A1 play in New Hampshire newspapers than Hillary Clinton?” that “Both newspapers should be embarrassed.”
No one should be embarrassed. All things told, it was a fun day out for all concerned. HRC’s peeps got to meet their lady-in-perpetual-waiting, merry pranksters got to support Vermin Supreme, and most importantly, the First Amendment prevailed.
As activists, a few things to remember:
- The Establishment will try to get away with proverbial murder (and the real stuff too), or, stated more generously, they will always initially take the position most favorable to them.
- Push back. Lawsuits scare the crap out of them. When in doubt, sue.
- Cry, and you cry alone, laugh, and the world laughs with you, so when planning a future protest, consider packing a pony or find another innovative way to make the world smile with you while you show off your own beautifully, voluntarily brushed and flossed chompers!
Carla Gericke (JD, MFA) is an advocate of liberty specializing in localized voluntarism, internet freedom, self-determination, and how responsible human action can lead to peace and prosperity. She is president emeritus of the Free State Project, and lives in New Hampshire with thousands of fellow activists. In 2014, Carla won a landmark case affirming the 1st Amendment right to film police encounters. She now serves as president of the Foundation for NH Independence, a 501c3 educational nonprofit. Carla is writing a memoir about her pursuit of a principled, purpose-driven life in the Free State of New Hampshire.