New Hampshire protesters shut down a high-level state meeting Wednesday by shouting threats until state employees started leaving out of fear.
The Wednesday meeting of Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and the state’s Executive Council was slated to consider contracts for millions of dollars in federal vaccine aid, but a handful of protesters in the room shouted the process down — yelling “we know where you live” and “they should be afraid,” the New Hampshire Bulletin reported. One protester said they would “not let them vote,” WMUR reported. Sununu and several others never emerged from a back room at the venue before the meeting was cancelled 45 minutes after it began, the Bulletin reported.
Video of the event showed a packed house at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, at St. Anselm College, where the meeting was set to take place.
“You want to force me to take a vax? I’m right here, make me! Make me take it!” one man was filmed shouting.
“State employees are fearful of their safety and have left the meeting,” Wheeler said. “We need the state employees to be able to answer questions on the agenda, and they are part of this meeting. Therefore, this meeting is canceled.”
After Councilor David Wheeler said that state employees who were in attendance to answer questions had left the meeting, one man shouted “Mission accomplished!”
Councilor Wheeler announces that state employees are in fear of their lives & have left. He says the meeting is canceled. “Mission accomplished,” yells one protester. #NHPolitics #WMUR pic.twitter.com/P0opFcTmOy— Adam Sexton (@AdamSextonWMUR) September 29, 2021
Sununu said in a statement afterward that state police escorted state employees to their cars, WMUR reported.
“I will not put members of the Executive Council or State Agencies in harm’s way,” the governor said.
Cinde Warmington, a Democrat on the Executive Council, criticized “insurrectionist behavior” at the meeting.
The protest had knock-on effects, as well: A “HarvestFest” scheduled for Sunday was canceled due to “the behavior demonstrated by protesters today and the likelihood of their disruption of Sunday’s festivities,” the governor wrote in an email to supporters. It also caused a postponement of a Thursday redistricting hearing, InDepthNH reported. A Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee meeting scheduled for Friday was also postponed, though it wasn’t clearly related to Wednesday’s disruption. WMUR’s Adam Sexton noted the meeting was expected to include a vote of the same federal funding that protesters opposed Wednesday.
One group that had organized a protest outside of the council meeting, Reopen NH, said in a statement that “unfortunately, a handful of individuals not connected to our organization disrupted councilors as they attempted to attend to the people’s business.”
Despite the group’s efforts to maintain a peaceful demonstration outside the building, the statement said, “these agitators were able to feed off people’s raw emotion and misdirect them.”
The contract in question would send money to New Hampshire from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and contained language stating that the state would agree to “comply with existing and/or future directives and guidance from the Secretary [of HHS] regarding control of the spread of COVID-19.”
Protesters seized on those lines. Terese Grinnell, who led the protest crowd in a chant inside the meeting Wednesday, said a Facebook video after that the federal contract would “potentially quarantine and isolate, basically put us in a concentration camp.”
Sununu called the contract language “boilerplate” and said it had been included in other federal contracts with the state.
In her video, Grinnel denied making any threats, but said if Sununu accepts the money with the current contract language, then “he knows that there is going to be a lot of civil unrest.”
Answering a question from her Facebook audience about what would happen if New Hampshire residents don’t comply with government orders, Grinnel said “then we’re looking at civil war,” before saying she did not support that option.
“But there’s definitely a lot of people feel like that’s where we’re headed,” she said.