I attended the Rally to Reopen NH on May 2nd, 2020. grrizzly planned to join me. I arrived later than I wanted to. grrizzly and I planned to meet at the rally by noon. He was already there when I arrived. Being a Saturday, the State House was closed and empty.
A quick summary of my impressions: The only law enforcement presence I saw was a New Hampshire Fish and Game officer driving past the State House as I arrived. There were several men openly carrying AR variants. I saw both men and women openly carrying pistols. I’m certain I was not the only person with a pistol concealed on his/her person. Hence why I say this is the safest place in New Hampshire.
There were more people attending this rally than the last rally. I’d say attendance was above 400 this time where last time was between 200 and 300. There were fewer Trump signs and more signs oriented towards religious freedom. The mix of speakers was a little different this time. I did not have as good of a vantage point this time as I did last time.
Friday, May 1st, Chris Sununu announced an extension of his stay-at-home order and some modifications to the order. The stay-at-home order is extended to May 31st. Here are a few of the modifications.
- Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen immediately but with restrictions such as they can only serve New Hampshire residents unless the campground is a private members only campground, in which case the campground can serve any member.
- Golf courses may reopen on May 11th but with restrictions.
- Barbers and salons are allowed to open on May 11th with restrictions on the number of customers they may serve at once, the services they may provide, and how they provide the services.
- Restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 18th but for outdoor dining only and with restrictions on group sizes, table spacing, and other restrictions.
- Drive-in movie theaters are allowed to open on May 11th, but with restrictions on capacity.
- Hospitals can provide elective, time sensitive procedures starting on May 4th.
For more details, other openings, and other restrictions on the above that I didn’t list, see this article. Trigger warning: Auto-play video.
I was not certain how Sununu’s announcement would affect the rally. I saw posts from the rally organizers that not only was the rally going on as planned, but they thought it was more necessary than before.
I listened to an hour of the first of the public comments period for the NH Reopening Task Force. My impression is most of the callers were concerned about how they would work with the restrictions and that some businesses should be able to open earlier.
I have noted more skepticism and push back against the shutdown on the New Hampshire subreddit than there was a week or two ago. However, I still say the New Hampshire subreddit is mostly behind Sununu and what he is doing. I noted that comments on the Reopen NH facebook page still run about 50/50. Half opposed, half in support.
After I parked on a Concord city street, I fed the meter because Concord enforces their meters on Saturday. Parking enforcement is “essential”. I walked over to the State House. I arrived at the State House between 12:20 PM and 12:30 PM. I noticed that the signs reminding people of the governor’s prohibition on public gatherings larger than ten people were back. They had not been torn down unlike the last time. I ignored them.
I found grrizzly. We shook hands.
I was wearing a face covering for reasons I won’t got into publicly but have nothing to do with Lil Rona.
I took pictures with my phone and tried taking notes on my phone. I gave up taking notes because it was a sunny day. The sun washed out the screen. Some of my pictures are garbage thanks to my not being able to see the phone screen well.
I could not hear the speakers all that well because of the honking from the cars driving by and some didn’t speak into the microphone. According to grrizzly, the speaker as I arrived was a pastor. Eventually grrizzly and I moved closer to the speakers. Then I could hear them better but still not well.
Here is a summary from memory of the speakers. I could hear about half the speakers for the time I was there.
One speaker encouraged business owners to open their businesses in defiance of the governors orders. He reminded the crowd that the Founders would never ask the government permission to open a business and they rebelled over a minor tax on tea.
Carla Gericke, a candidate for state senate, spoke. She spoke at the last rally, and was the speaker comparing the number of unemployed with the population of some municipalities in New Hampshire. At this rally, she spoke about contact tracing. She encouraged the crowd to refuse to take part in contact tracing as it will be used to track your every movement.
After Carla Gericke spoke, I saw her talking with a guy who carried a sign reading “WE ARE ALL ESSENTIAL EXCEPT POLITICIANS.” She asked if she could pose for a picture with him. When he find out she was running for office, he said, “It’s nothing personal.” She didn’t care. They posed for some pictures.
There was at least one counter protestor. grrizzly said he saw a guy with a sign showing a toilet who stood behind the speakers. Some folks with flags moved between that guy and the speakers. Later I saw a guy in a costume carrying a scythe with “SCIENCE” on the blade. I don’t know if it was the same guy.
Another speaker runs a facility management business on the Seacoast. He said his business is “essential” under Sununu’s order, but many of the businesses he serves are on the “non-essential” list. This devastated his revenue. He says he can only last a few more weeks before he is out of business.
A guy from the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence was working the crowd. He handed out flyers. I took one.
A lawyer got up to speak. The only things I remember from his speech was that it touched on some legal rights and that fear is worse than the virus. He also talked about wondering why more of his fellow lawyers aren’t on the side of people that want an end to Sununu’s orders.
At some point I saw a guy walking around wearing a Plague Doctor mask. I did not take a picture of him.
The last speaker was a Catholic priest. He is the parish priest for a church in New Hampshire. I do not remember his name and I thought he was introduced as the parish priest for a Concord area church. I did a little digging but could not find a parish in the Concord area which showed him as a priest at that parish. He talked about religious freedom and how the orders have trampled on religious freedom. He mentioned something about how the gathering was illegal. He considered us all part of his flock, and if the police showed up to arrest anyone, he’d be first in line to be arrested. I will keep an eye out to see if any Catholic priest in New Hampshire starts holding Mass again in defiance of Sununu’s orders.
After the last speaker, the organizers asked the crowd to go over to the State House and gather on the steps so we could get pictures of the crowd along with the petitions the organizers plan to give to Chris Sununu. The organizer also mentioned that there is a similar rally upcoming at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. I thought he said Sunday the 3rd, but the only information I can find about an upcoming rally in Massachusetts is for this one on the 4th of May.
On the way over, some folks posed with the signs reminding folks that the gathering violates the governor’s orders and is a misdemeanor. I thought about ripping down the signs but decided not to as people seemed to be enjoying posing with the signs. I took some pictures of people posing with the signs.
At the State House, people flooded the steps. There were chants of “USA USA” and “LIVE FREE OR DIE” plus others.
The crowd broke up. grrizzly and I left. No one had messed with his motorcycle.
I think despite the growing discontent over Sununu’s orders, that it is still too small to matter. Sununu has been talking with governors of neighboring states (Charlie Baker of MA, Janet Mills of ME, Phil Scott of VT). I and others have noticed that many of his orders have matched exactly what Charlie Baker ordered with the only difference being Sununu’s order was a day or two later.
Rick Ganley: So you’re obviously coordinating with the governors of Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, I imagine, because you want open up at the same time. What would it look like?
Chris Sununu: So we’re all sharing ideas on both timing and the business sectors that we’re looking at. So, for example, I think everybody agrees that we’d like to see hospitals, and outpatient surgeries and some of the initial steps of getting hospitals and health care going again. And hopefully, you know, that’ll be done sooner than later. I think everyone agrees that they’re more equipped to do that, to maintain testing and [personal protective equipment], supplies and things of that nature.
There’s also some simpler things that we can do, I think. Things like barbershops or salons, where again you have a whole new guidance, but you’re only letting maybe a few people in at a time. You’re doing everything by reservation. You’re still helping supply them with [personal protective equipment], things of that nature. Our economy is more open than other states. So, for example, Vermont has already taken steps to to loosen things up over there. But really they’re kind of catching up to where we already are, specifically around construction and a few other areas. You know, they had a real epidemic issue with New Yorkers.
He is not going to deviate. Will he change if discontent grows big enough? Maybe. He is up for re-election this year.