Five arrested after refusing to leave governor’s office

  • Asma Elhuni, of Lebanon, left, protests in the hallway outside Gov. Sununu’s office on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 6/25/2021 9:17:30 PM

After Asma Elhuni, Lebanon resident and Movement Politics Director for Rights and Democracy New Hampshire, was arrested Thursday alongside four other activists at the State House, she said their fight against the “immoral” legislation in the state budget that Gov. Chris Sununu signed Friday is not over.

Despite the budget being signed and sealed, Elhuni vows to revitalize community outreach efforts in the wake of the legislation. The activist said New Hampshire communities “will not be divided,” and Rights and Democracy will focus this summer on engaging more people than ever around the state.

Following a day of demonstrations outside the state house, dozens of protestors made their way inside the building to deliver their concerns to Sununu and urge him to veto the budget. The five activists were each charged with criminal trespass and given a July 30 court date after refusing to leave the Capitol upon its closure at 5 p.m.

To leave the building without taking a stand, Elhuni said, would equate to “giving up on our communities,” which is something she said the group was not willing to do.

“It’s the same reason Rosa Parks did not give up her seat knowing she was going to get in trouble for doing that,” Elhuni said. “When all the doors are shut in our face and people are not prioritizing human rights, then people use their bodies as a form of protest to say, ‘No, not on our watch.’”

State police said those arrested included Rights and Democracy staff members Alison Brokenshire from White River Junction and Dana Hackett from Laconia; as well as James Graham of Lyme and Douglas Robertson of Keene, who goes by the name Joy.

One day following the House and Senate approval of the legislation, Sununu signed the two budget bills Friday afternoon.

“Historic tax cuts, property tax relief, and Paid Family Medical Leave delivered all in one sweeping action is a win for every citizen and family in this state,” Sununu said in a statement.

Key points of public protest included a ban on teaching “divisive concepts” like systemic racism in schools and governmental agencies, a ban on abortions after 24 weeks gestation and a slew of tax cuts that Democrats argued would help wealthy citizens and corporations, including a reduction on the business enterprise tax.

“I think the majority of Granite Staters don’t understand what’s in this budget. I think the budget is a manifesto of hate and oppression wrapped in pretty paper,” Elhuni said. “It’s a really scary time in New Hampshire and I feel this is a crisis.”

Elhuni is looking ahead. She said her organization will continue conducting community outreach to encourage people to get involved through activism and running for public office.

“We’re going to do what we always do, which is organize. We’re going to try to unite our communities. … We need people who are directly impacted by these horrible policies to be at the decision making table,” she said. “This is not the end of it.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit

Jenny Whidden is a Report for America corps member reporting on the New Hampshire State House and racial justice legislation for The Granite State News Collaborative, a statewide multimedia collective of nearly 20 media outlets and community partners working together. Prior to starting at the GSNC in June 2021, Whidden, of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, covered the Illinois State House and the pandemic for the Chicago Tribune. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marquette University, where she was managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, the award-winning student paper. Whidden has reported for New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, a nonprofit site.

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