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Alton Man Sues Town, Police Chief After Arrest At Meeting

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An Alton man has sued the town’s board of selectmen and police chief after he was arrested at a meeting earlier this year for criticizing board members.

The charge of disorderly conduct against Jeffrey Clay was thrown out by a Laconia Circuit Court judge last month, calling the arrest an act of “pure censorship.”

Now, Clay is seeking damages, said Giles Bissonnette, the legal director for the New Hampshire ACLU, which filed the suit in federal court in Concord Tuesday.

“Government officials need to know that they’re required under the First Amendment to tolerate harsh criticism and even a demeaning attitude towards them and they cannot discriminate based on these critical viewpoints,” he said.

The town’s police chief arrested Clay at a meeting in February, after he told board members during public comment period they should resign. (You can watch the meeting here).

A member of the board accused Clay of character assassination, and the board voted to shut down public comment.

Despite being asked to stop speaking, Clay continued, and the board chair asked the police chief to arrest him.

The town now has 60 days to respond to the suit.