Political event puts poet in court R.U. Outavit arrested at rally for Al Gore Thursday, February 3, 2000 By ANNMARIE TIMMINS Monitor staff LACONIA - The primary left a few losers in its wake. George Bush, Bill Bradley and a Weirs Beach poet named R.U. Outavit. Outavit, 49, pleaded not guilty in Concord District Court yesterday to charges he disturbed an Al Gore rally in Penacook last month by allegedly socking a man and then fighting the half-dozen police officers who arrested him. He goes to trial on the charges April 27 and will be representing himself. Outavit - who chose his name because every time he said he wanted to be a poet someone said "Are you out of it?'' - doesn't have the money to subpoena oodles of witnesses and compile a stack of legal research. But the poet in him likely will draw from something as powerful: an arsenal of determination and conviction. "I can't afford (the fines),'' Outavit said. "But I'm more concerned about never having this on my record. It's ridiculous for someone who has always been a nonviolent person to be accused of this.'' With this single event, the man who says he's devoted his life to peace has been cast as a political activist, an instigator. And it frustrates the heck out of him. "This was a complete fiasco,'' Outavit said. "I was (at the rally) as an undecided voter. I was enjoying Al Franken and a speech by Al Gore when this happened. And (Gore's) spokesman has done a fantastic job of ruining my name and reputation.'' Outavit already had been to a few Al Gore events by the time campaign staff invited him to attend a rally at Merrimack Valley High School in mid-January. He was listening to Gore's speech when someone grabbed his white hat from atop his head and took off with it. The hat means a lot to Outavit, he said, because it was a gift from a suicide survivor. So he turned and went after it. Here's where the story diverges. The police say Outavit punched the man who took his hat and shouted obscenities at the police who arrested him. Outavit says no such thing happened. According to his version, and at least one reporter who was standing near him, there was no assault and no disturbance. Outavit said the man who took his hat couldn't get through the crowd and threw the hat on the ground. Outavit said he picked it up just as he was jumped on by about a half-dozen police officers. They threw him on their shoulders and carried him into the hallway as he yelled: "I'm an American citizen. Do not take my hat away.'' One reporter said the officers reacted so aggressively that the media followed them believing Outavit had a weapon. He didn't. "They said I was a protester. They said I was disrupting the audience,'' Outavit said. "They said I was shouting obscenities. If shouting, 'I'm an American citizen' is an obscenity then we are all going to be arrested.'' One newspaper wrongly said Outavit spent the night in jail because he couldn't afford his bail. All said he was heard shouting obscenities, an untruth he's worried has offended his 87-year-old mother. And none have mentioned his poetry, his efforts to get New Hampshire to recognize Martin Luther King Day or his annual celebration of world peace. Or that he voted for Al Gore anyway. On July 14, Outavit celebrates R.U. Outavit day. It's a single day devoted to the fact that the world has not been destroyed by nuclear weapons. He spends the remaining year celebrating world peace. Two years ago, Outavit celebrated the day in Colorado with poems and songs. "At the end of the day, everyone feels confident that all was done that could be done to save the World,'' he read at that event's opening. "Peace wins, Love rules.'' Outavit chose the date for several reasons. The French celebrate Bastille Day that day. July 14 can also be written as 7 14 - and 714 happens to be the number of home runs Babe Ruth hit and the number on the badge of Dragnet's Joe Friday. If you need another reason, Outavit has it. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, but Outavit said most people didn't learn of it until July 14. Several years ago, Outavit came from the Boston area to Weirs Beach so his fiance could be near her family. That's the second reason he gives for coming here. The first is that Jack Kerouac enjoyed himself at the Weirs and wrote about his experiences. In the years he's been here, Outavit has found material for his own poems. One was written in hopes of encouraging the state to celebrate Martin Luther King. It's titled "Sparch That Barbecue." Now if it were rainy today / the rain will not say / when the rain will go away / It may stay and stay and rain and pour / and flood over the roof and wash everything away / and we would all be dead and it wouldn't / matter anymore that New Hampshire / is the last state to ratify / Martin Luther King Day as a holiday. On the side, when he's not writing poetry, Outavit is a mosh-meister, meaning he's the guy at concerts who gets the rowdy mosh pit going in front of the stage. He's usually the first one to dive into it. He admits it's tough work for a 49-year-old. Sometimes even dangerous. "But not as dangerous as going to an Al Gore rally,'' he said. (Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 528-2027, or by e-mail at atimmins@cmonitor.com.)