Chaos at NHIOP: Protestors storm Exec Council


Courtesy/Jake Lamontagne

Protestors outside of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics take a stand against mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

Alex Ginn, Crier Staff

Last Wednesday, the New Hampshire Executive Council and Governor Chris Sununu held their monthly council meeting at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. What was predicted to be a mundane meeting on the state budget and spending collapsed into chaos as protesters hailing from all over the state descended on the meeting to protest the state’s decision to use federal money, totaling 27 million dollars, to boost state vaccination efforts.

 The NHIOP auditorium filled rapidly as state officials, school staff, reports, protestors, and Student Political Ambassadors struggled to get in. After a quick breakfast followed by a welcoming speech by the governor and other pre-meeting events with the Kid Governor of NH Charlie Olsen, college president Dr. Favazza, Meelia Center director Nicole Lora, and Institute of Politics executive director Neil Levesque all giving short speeches, many of the protestors started to become agitated. 

A few heckled not only the governor but also the kid governor as well, shouting, “Propaganda tool,” “he’s more qualified than you [Governor Sununu],” and about hydroxychloroquine, the drug promoted by former president Trump during the early stages of the pandemic. During this time, most protestors were kept outside of the Institute of Politics due to fire codes. This only served to rile up the protesters, who chanted “shut it down” in response to both the council meeting and as a reaction to the other protestors not being allowed into the meeting.

Estimates state that about 40-50 protesters turned out for the meeting, most of whom stood outside. At this time, right before the meeting began, Neil Levesque ordered that the student ambassadors working the event leave for their safety. Many protesters hurled threats at members on the stage, such as “We know where you live,” while pointing at officials on the stage. The chanting and heckling continued from the protestors all morning, reaching a point where state officials who were brought in to answer questions felt unsafe and were escorted out by police. 

Due to this, the governor and council members decided to postpone the meeting. Many of the protesters in the auditorium cheered this outcome, feeling it as a victory. Many of the protestors felt that their freedoms were going to be curtailed by taking federal money. They also felt that accepting a deal would lead to a statewide mandate. 

One protester, Robert Beaulieu, felt that his freedom and his children’s freedom were being threatened by using this money to push vaccination efforts, saying, “I’m here for freedom for my child. To help my kids…But this mandate of anyone having to get vaccines or using federal money or state money to advertise-propagandize for only one side and not the other… is not fair and not right for our children.” 

Another protestor who did not want to give their name felt angry that their representatives were not listening to them, saying, “We’re here for it all, ya know. Not just this. Where here for freedom, freedom of speech…we’re just not going to sit here and take it and let the people we’re paying to help us turn their back on us.”

 While mainly the action was contained at NHIOP, many students were heckled and accosted by protesters on their way to the event or class. 

Student Ambassador TJ Robinson described what protestors shouted at students, saying, “A couple of my roommates were going to class, and they were harassing students going to class. Telling them that they were quote on quote ‘maskies’ for wearing masks, ‘communist’ and ‘props of [the] state.’”

 Neil Levesque, executive director of the institute of politics, had this to say about the protestors: “It was probably the most disrespectful, I think the word might be abhorrent behavior I have ever seen from other human beings.”

Neil Levesque also shared how he had to cancel other public meetings at NHIOP because of this event. 

Overall, this was a dark day for Saint Anselm College and New Hampshire as a whole; as Kevin Chrisom said, “I just hope we can move past this, and it’s just a statement of where our politics are at today.”