Back in September, artist and filmmaker Jonathan Doyle made a video of himself wearing a Bigfoot suit, surprising hikers along mountain trails at New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock State Park — a project Doyle says was “just a spontaneous idea and social experiment.” Mount Monadnock, incidentally, is mentioned in another social experiment, Thoreau’s Walden.
The park administration never received any complaints about Doyle, but when he returned on September 14 to shoot some more footage in the same park, Doyle was informed by park manager Patrick Hummel that he needed a $100 permit and a $2 million insurance policy to videotape there.
Now Doyle, backed by the ACLU, is suing the state of New Hampshire, claiming this requirement abridges Doyle’s First Amendment rights, in a case that’s been geting attention not just from New England news outlets but from the likes of NPR.
Doyle said the group left when Hummel asked them to, but for a 7-year-old Jaffrey [NH] resident in the group who had dressed up as a pirate for the film, it was a bit of a blow.
“It was difficult to explain to him why we couldn’t go on the mountain and make a little movie. It was disturbing in itself to think about how limited his freedom might be,” Doyle said.
That’s why he decided to file a formal complaint with the [New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union], he said. His goal is to get an apology from the park and the chance to return to the mountain to carry out the group’s plans. He said he has no intention of obtaining a permit because, if he did, he’d worry what would happen to the next budding artist whose artistic process involves the mountain.
“What about people who are not professional artists, but will be and are coming into their own expression and inspiration by going to the mountain?” he said.
On Monday, staff attorney Barbara Keshen of the New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU said that Mount Monadnock is a public forum and the state park’s permitting process is vague and overbroad. She said the group’s First Amendment rights were violated when they were asked to disband because they did not have a permit.
Doyle is not seeking damages. The park administration told the Ledger-Transcript that the policy does not violate Doyle’s First Amendment rights because all staged events are required to get permits in New Hampshire state parks.
Doyle’s website, incidentally, is nycreator.com, where he showcases his videography, photography, marketing and writing business. Uh-huh.