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  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    Stephen Lee, of Peterborough, wearing a sidearm, arranges knives for sale at his booth, American Patriot Supplies, during the 2012 Liberty Forum at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    John Bush speaks during the Liberty Forum on Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua.
  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM

    James Reiher, right, of Silver Annex, shows David Murotake, of Nashua, how to figure out which coins aren’t made of silver by listening for the difference – non-silver coins are higher pitched – during the Liberty Forum on Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Wearing a sidearm, Stephen Lee of Peterborough arranges knives for sale at his booth, American Patriot Supplies during a Liberty Forum Friday, February 24, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Attendees march to beat of their own drum at Liberty Forum in Nashua

NASHUA – Chris Lopez is proud to be No. 50.

Lopez said she was the 50th person to move to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, which chose the Granite State as the most likely place where an influx of people could change the political system to embrace libertarian values.

Lopez, 46, said she moved to Manchester from Oregon in 2004 because she hoped to work toward “liberty in my lifetime, whatever that means to me.”

People bustled past in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua as guests arrived for the New Hampshire Liberty Forum. Lopez, a volunteer, signed in some of the 300 or more people expected to attend various speeches and seminars scheduled over the weekend.

Lopez’s hat sported a dozen or so buttons – “flair,” a friend joked, referring to the movie “Office Space.” Her buttons carried such messages as “Other people are not your property” and “Stop Arresting Patients – for Medical Marijuana.”

One anti-war sticker adorned Lopez’s wheelchair.

“Liberty to me means being able to choose for myself how I live,” Lopez said.

Freedom to live as one chooses is a powerful ideal, and a conference exploring the concept was worth the drive from New Jersey for Marcus Connor, 37.

“Liberty is dying every day in the United States,” Connor said.

The government is killing it, he said.

That view was espoused in speeches throughout the morning. It was the drumbeat that would sound throughout the various programs of the forum.

One of the day’s first speakers, John Bush, talked of the need to abandon the U.S. Constitution, which he said was written to protect the interests of the nation’s founding fathers, who were “the privileged elite at the time.”

Bush represented Agora 21, described as “a counter-economic approach to building a free society in the 21st century.”

Bush acknowledged the Constitution marked civilization’s best achievement toward limiting government, but added, “I think we can do better. I think we can do much better.”

The Free State Project has been described as an umbrella movement that has brought together people whose views range from the extreme right to the extreme left.

Forum organizer Chris Lawless acknowledged that diversity in remarks to a packed conference room.

“That’s the thing that brings us all together: choice,” Lawless said.

For Connor, standing in a busy hallway outside the conference room, liberty means not imposing your views on others.

“I want to live a happy life and help others live their happy lives,” he said. “You have to first allow others to be free before you can be free.”

Connor said he plans to move to New Hampshire soon. He vacationed here as a child, and the state feels like a comfortable fit for him, he said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or