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Photo by Karen Anderson, courtesy of WBZ-TV/CBS


Matt Bieber was arrested on criminal trespassing and escorted to a Hudson Police cruiser Monday, Jan. 9, during a Mitt Romney campaign event at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating.
Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mass. man disputes targeting as ‘protester’ at Hudson campaign event

HUDSON – Matt Bieber drove up to New Hampshire last weekend to get a feel for the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

He won’t soon forget the experience.

Bieber, 29, of Somerville, Mass., said he was removed from a Mitt Romney campaign event in Hudson on Monday, arrested and charged with criminal trespassing after a Romney staff member told Hudson police that Bieber was a protester.

“To me, my mind was kind of blown. I’ve never been to a Romney protest,” Bieber said Friday.

He added that he even had a “couple nice interactions with Romney staff” at a debate watch party earlier that weekend.

Bieber said he attended several other events in New Hampshire before and after the arrest.

He said he arrived at a friend’s house in Nashua on Friday and drove around to hear speeches by Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Buddy Roemer.

“I didn’t go with any political agenda; I went up to check it all out,” Bieber said. “I’ve been a political junkie for a long time, but I’d never actually been in New Hampshire during primary season.”

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams declined to comment Friday. Hudson police and Gilchrist Metal Fabricating – the company that hosted Monday’s event – didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Hudson Police Officer Roger Lamarche was on duty at the Romney event with one other Hudson officer, Kevin Ducie, Bieber said. They were hired by the Romney campaign for security detail and wore their town police uniforms.

Lamarche told BuzzFeed.com that Bieber “hadn’t done anything,” according to a story published by that Web site Thursday. Lamarche added that it was “the staff’s word against his” when asked why Bieber was arrested.

On Friday, Bieber said he spent four hours in a holding cell before he was released. He said police advised him to stay away from the industrial park area where Gilchrist Metal Fabricating is located or he might be arrested again.

When recounting the event, Bieber said he felt nervous after police approached him and asked him to leave. He asked police if they wanted to check his backpack, but the officer declined to explain until he stepped outside the building.

Bieber said Lamarche told him that he was identified by the campaign as a protester. When he asked police to speak with campaign staff and clarify the mistake, they declined his request.

Police told Bieber if he didn’t leave, he would be arrested for criminal trespassing. When Bieber questioned the officers further – politely, he said – he was handcuffed and placed in a police cruiser.

“They let me ask a couple more questions, then they had enough,” Bieber said. “I was shocked, confused and disappointed more than anything. I wanted to see what was going on with the presidential candidates and, all of a sudden, I was threatened with arrest.”

Bieber said he is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass. He said he “leans left” on the political spectrum, but added that he’s “not in love with the Democratic party” and harbors some skepticism about President Barack Obama going forward.

Bieber said he had a great experience at events for other Republican candidates.

“In each of those instances, I came to understand better where they’re coming from, understand them more in depth and I gained respect for each of them,” Bieber said. “I fully expected the same to happen with Romney.

“I wasn’t even planning to say anything or ask a question. I just wanted to hear the guy and see how he interacted with people. Now, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth.”

Bieber wrote about the experience on his blog, TheWheatandChaff.com, and it was re-posted on The Huffington Post, which has drawn many comments.

“It seems like it’s hard for people to believe that I could have been there for any reasons other than for nefarious reasons,” Bieber said. “To me, that says something disturbing about our skepticism and our political culture.

“I don’t think this is a Romney-specific thing. … It points to something bigger about the way campaigns have become so protective of their candidates. This suspiciousness … it’s an unfortunate symptom of the larger environment we’re in.”

Bieber said he doesn’t have a criminal record and has never been arrested before.

Bieber is scheduled to appear for an arraignment on Thursday, Jan. 26, at Nashua district court on Spring Street.

As his winter break from school continues, Bieber said he may go to South Carolina to take in more politics. He’d like to go to another Romney event, but he said he doesn’t know how he would be received.

“I would appreciate it if the Romney campaign would contact me and explain what happened, how it happened and let me know if I want to show up at his events in the future I’d be welcome to do so,” Bieber said.

He said he has written a letter to the campaign asking for an explanation.

“I don’t want to get anyone, I don’t want to sue anyone,” he said. “What I’d like is for this to go away. I’d like to hear from the Romney campaign indicating that there was some sort of mistake.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).