By Ted Siefer
MANCHESTER N.H. (Reuters) - Feathers are flying in New Hampshire following the arrest of a state Republican party staffer who dressed in a chicken suit and allegedly disrupted a parade that featured two prominent Democratic politicians.
Michael Zona, 23, donned the costume at a parade on Saturday in the town of Londonderry, while holding a sign reading: "Jeanne Shaheen too chicken for town halls."
Democratic U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, were marching in the parade.
Police say Zona harassed the politicians and refused several requests to cease flapping his wings.
He was charged with one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
The stunt was meant to draw attention to the state Republican Party's charge that Shaheen is avoiding town hall-style events, where she would have to offer unscripted responses to questions and comments from voters.
The criticism has been lobbed most frequently by the campaign of Scott Brown, the presumed Republican front-runner in the Senate race. Brown, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has struggled to gain traction against the popular Shaheen.
In a statement released Tuesday by the state Republican Party, Zona said he was exercising his First Amendment rights.
"I wasn't disturbing anyone," he said. "In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route."
A spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party accused the Republicans of wasting "taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter," such as raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security.
Zona is scheduled to appear in court on the charge on Sept. 8.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)