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Protesters call out Sessions during AG’s visit to Concord 

  • Protesters gathered outside U.S. District Court in Concord while U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke inside. Paul Steinhauser—

  • Protesters gathered outside U.S. District Court in Concord while U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke inside. Paul Steinhauser—



For the Monitor
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Recovering addict Ryan Fowler made the 45-minute drive from Exeter to join a demonstration outside the federal courthouse in Concord to protest a visit by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“While those suits are in their talking, we’re out here dying,” Fowler said. “My friends are dying every single day because they don’t have access to treatment.”

Fowler described himself as a certified recovery support worker, who is in recovery himself.

“I’m here because I’ve received nothing but lip service my whole life from politicians,” he said.

Inside the U.S. District Courthouse, President Donald Trump’s attorney general gave an update on the administration’s battle against the opioid crisis, which has hit New Hampshire particularly hard. Sessions announced that the Justice Department would add additional attorneys to the 10 districts hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic, with a focus on fentanyl prosecutions.

Outside the courthouse, Fowler led the crowd in chanting “They talk, we die.”

The administration’s approach to the drug crisis was just one of the issues protesters had on their minds.

“I’m here for health care and everything else,” Eloise Ginty said.

Ginty, who drove in from Bedford, Vt., said she disagrees with the Trump administration on a host of issues.

“I don’t have enough hands or fingers or toes to name them all,” she said.

State Rep. Linda Tanner of Sunapee also had multiple issues on her mind.

“I am just upset with the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, with the Mueller investigation being dismissed, the Affordable Care Act, and with children being separated at the border. There’s just so much going on. I feel I need to be here to protest,” she said.

Rhu McBee of Tilton said she showed up because of the administration’s efforts to weaken the federal health care law, better known as Obamacare.

“The Affordable Care Act should be maintained and strengthened,” she said.

Retiree David Kelman of Enfield said if he had a chance to speak one-on-one with the attorney general, “I would say look at our country and do whatever you can to enforce any laws that are helping people and not ones that are hindering or making people’s lives worse.”

But Kelman wasn’t optimistic that the demonstration would lead to change.

“I like to spend my retirement doing things that will help our society, and this is one of them that I hope will help. But I’m pessimistic. I don’t think he’ll (Sessions) do anything except support our president, who I don’t think is doing anything to help our country,” he said.

The rally was organized by the liberal groups Granite State Progress, Rights and Democracy NH, the Kent Street Coalition and ACLU-New Hampshire.

ACLU-NH executive director Devon Chaffee also criticized Sessions.

“He has decided to prioritize an ineffective and counterproductive war on drugs that has been waged ruthlessly in this country for the last 40 years. He has decided to prioritize a war that has done absolutely nothing to put even a dent in drug use in our country,” she told the demonstrators. “Let’s at a minimum ask him to stop peddling his war in our state.”

The demonstration also drew both Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand.

“I’m here to really support these wonderful people who are standing up and rightly so. We all have a right to health care and to think that anyone would put up barriers or deny anyone health care based on pre-existing conditions is unacceptable,” Kelly said.

“I’m also here to call out Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump on the inhumane treatment, uncivilized, heartbreaking treatment of families on our southern border, children who are being ripped from their parents. It is unacceptable,” added Kelly, a former five-term state senator from Harrisville.

Marchand, a former Portsmouth mayor who’s making his second straight bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, said Sessions was central to the problems facing the nation.

“I think it was important for people to come out today to express our displeasure related to the drug war, what he’s doing related to immigration, the tone that he’s set from day one in office,” Marchand said. “He represents in a lot of ways what’s the worst of the past instead of what can be the best of our future.”

Gov. Chris Sununu didn’t join Sessions at the event, which seemed to briefly confuse the attorney general.

“I don’t know if Gov. Sununu is here,” Sessions said near the beginning of his comments as he looked around the room.

The governor’s office later put out a statement saying that the two men met privately.

“They had a productive discussion focusing on the ways to help fight this crisis and stem the flow of drugs coming into our communities. Governor Sununu remains committed to tackling the opioid crisis head-on because lives are at stake,” Sununu’s staff said.