By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: August 24, 2009
A topless teenage girl with a handgun holstered on her hip was arrested Sunday afternoon near a busy intersection in downtown Keene.
Cassidy Nicosia, 18, was arrested on a charge of indecent exposure at about 1:30 p.m. near the Main-Marlboro-Winchester streets roundabout.
Nicosia was arrested after police answered multiple complaint calls about a topless girl walking through downtown Keene with a group of armed protesters affiliated with the Free State Project, Keene police Sgt. James A. Cemorelis said.
The Free State Project is an effort to convince 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire and participate in activism and run for local and state office.
Only 743 people have made the move and another 9,585 have committed to moving since a majority of project members voted on the Live Free or Die state as a home base nearly six years ago, according to the project’s Web site.
Nicosia lists Manchester as her current residence and Houston, Texas, as her hometown on the social networking Web site MySpace.
In an online video of Nicosia’s protest and arrest, she explains why she decided to go topless in public.
“I chose to do it because this is one of the most important issues to me is equality … men can walk down the street … and, you know, not get harassed at all but yet somehow this is dirty,” she says.
Shirtless men, some holding video cameras, are standing around Nicosia during the protest. Women who are wearing tops are also standing with her.
“She (Nicosia) was the only woman there who did not have her breasts covered,” Cemorelis said.
When the police arrive, the video shows Nicosia and others in her group arguing with them and requesting to be left alone.
“In an effort to be reasonable, we asked her many times to put her shirt on and be on her way,” Cemorelis said. “She absolutely refused to do so.”
Nicosia eventually agrees to put on a top, but only after she is arrested. She gives the gun she was carrying to another member of her group before the arrest. State law does not require residents to have permits to openly carry firearms.
While going through the booking process at the Keene Police Department, Nicosia refused to provide identification, Cemorelis said.
Other members of the Free State Project have also refused to identify themselves for police and government officials. One member, Samuel Miller, who also left Texas for the Granite State, spent nearly 60 days in jail because he would not provide his name to police or a judge.
Nicosia, though, decided to provide identification after speaking with police.
“We explained to her that the crime didn’t warrant her being held on bail,” Cemorelis said. “But if she didn’t provide us with identifying information, we’d more likely than not have to hold her until she could see the judge (Monday) morning.”
Nicosia was released with a summons to appear Sept. 9 at Keene District Court for arraignment.