The Free State Project is holding its annual Liberty Forum at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua this weekend.
At the forum, you see a lot of people expressing their passion for freedom.
Some open carry firearms in holsters. Others proudly wear t-shirts bearing the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Jillian Batty? She makes sweets.
"I make everything in kitchen at home. I make brittles, and caramels, and fudge," she says.
Batty owns Stateless Sweets and was set up inside the vendor room at the forum on Friday.
So how exactly is buying one of Batty’s products different from, say, buying a Hershey bar?
"Well, I don’t fund wars, so I don’t pay taxes and nobody pays taxes when they buy my product. I don’t ask the government for permission to sell my own work.”
And that’s the sentiment at the heart of the sixth-annual liberty forum. There’s a full slate of topics being discussed; everything from knowing your rights when dealing with police to a primer on how town government works.
But it also serves as a status check of sorts for the Free State Project.
President Carla Gericke gave a state-of-the-movement address to a crowd gathered in a banquet hall Friday morning. She urges those who haven’t done so already to relocate to the Granite State.
“We want you to move and come here to promote individual responsibility and to preserve liberty for all."
It’s been nearly a decade since organizers announced New Hampshire as their future Free State. The goal then was to have 20,000 pro-liberty activists commit to moving to the Granite State. And as of the last count?
“We’re at about 14,000 right now," says Chris Lawless, organizer of the forum.
"A thousand people have said I don’t want to wait until we have 20,000, I’m going to move now, so about a thousand one hundred are here in New Hampshire.”
Lawless says the forum isn’t just for those already part of the movement; it’s also to help educate non-Free Staters about the cause.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about what the Free State Project is and I think we are very often mislabeled about what we are here for.”
The Free State Project says part of its mission is to reduce taxes and regulations and make reforms at all levels of government. But Lawless says they aren’t looking to change the New Hampshire way of life.
“That’s the big misconception. It has no income tax and no sales tax. I don’t want to change that. So people who move from other places who want an income tax, they’re trying to change New Hampshire.”
Attendees on Friday ran the gamut in age, from the old, to the young, like 18-year-old Josh Levell, who was there with his younger brother.
So are other teens usually quite so passionate about preserving liberty?
"Occasionally there’s a person who’s truly looked at these issues and those people tend to agree with the libertarian message, but other than that, not really.”
Angela Harris moved from North Carolina to Manchester a month ago with her 13-year-old son Jeremy.
“New Hampshire is the freest state in the country. It’s also been ranked many times as the best state to raise a family. I don’t think that’s an accident. I think there’s a connection there.”
And Batty says she’s not just here to sell her chocolates.
"I am actually moving in April to New Hampshire.”
She’ll be part of the next wave Free Staters that organizers hope will continue until that goal of 20,000 people is reached.