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Protesters march in downtown Concord

  • ABOVE: John Topouzoglou of Pittsfield sits down after walking the entire march Monday as he listens to the speeches at City Plaza during the People’s Freedom March. Topouzoglou said he just wants peace, as he has seen too much unrest in his 86 years.

  • Some of the signs as the group moves down Concord’s Main Street on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The People’s Freedom March makes its way down Main Street in Concord on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Marchers cross Pleasant Street along Main Street in downtown Concord as part of the The People’s Freedom March. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The marchers cross South Main Street Monday as part of the The People’s Freedom March. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Pat Spalding from the Leftist Marching Band of Portsmouth entertains the crowd before heading out on the march down Main Street in Concord on Monday.



Monitor staff
Monday, February 20, 2017

A few hundred Granite Staters celebrated Presidents Day on Monday by taking to the State House lawn in protest of the White House’s current inhabitant.

In an event reminiscent of the Women’s March demonstration that packed an estimated 5,000 people into downtown Concord – and hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. – just last month, a motley group of progressive political organizations joined for an afternoon of marching, petition-signing and speeches.

“We wanted to bring people together on this Presidents Day to say that we the people need to stand up for our rights, and our freedoms, and we need to take action collectively,” said organizer Olivia Zink, the executive director of the Concord-based Open Democracy. Zink estimated about 300 came out.

Speakers included Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, and Catherine Corkery, the state director of the Sierra Club, along with the leaders of other progressive groups, most of whom emphasized a solidarity between causes in their speeches.

“Let’s continue to lift our voice until no human being is illegal. Let’s continue to lift our voice until there is true equality across genders in our country. Let’s continue to lift our voice until there is a living wage established. Let’s continue to lift our voices,” the Rev. Eric Jackson, the president of the Manchester NAACP, told the crowd.

Contoocook Valley Regional High junior Alex Stone also spoke, urging Trump to be on the side of the LGBTQ community. Stone said in an interview afterward that it wasn’t necessarily Trump’s specific stances that worried him as much as his silence on the issues.

He noted, as many gay rights advocates have, that the White House scrubbed its LGBTQ rights page immediately after Trump took office.

“I’m concerned about how solid people feel in their hatred. They feel validated in it. The day after he got elected, I walked down the halls of my liberal high school and was called a f***** for the first time,” Stone said.

The afternoon’s events ended with a quick word from NH AFL-CIO president Glenn Brackett, who cheered the demise last week of Senate Bill 11, a so-called right-to-work bill, as “a victory for middle-class America.”

It wasn’t the first time New Hampshire has considered right-to-work proposals, which target unions by making mandatory fees charged to nonmembers who benefit from collectively bargained contracts illegal.

“It pisses me off – I gotta come here every two years and do it again,” he said.

Still, Brackett said that while he was tired of fighting the same battles over and over, left-wing movements had been galvanized.

He recounted talking to a Democratic lawmaker from the Seacoast who had gone to what is typically a humdrum, low-turnout party function.

“He said, ‘I showed up 10 minutes late, and I could not get in the room,’ ” Brackett said.

In the crowd, Pembroke resident Marie Straiton held up a sign.

“We want a leader,” Straiton’s posterboard read. “Not a creepy tweeter.”

Straiton said she came out on Monday because she felt the President was “attacking everything that we stand for. Our democracy, our constitution.”

“I’m speechless,” she said. “Just coming out to these rallies just makes me feel better.”

But Straiton said she was doing work after the protests, too. She’d recently joined a Concord group – the Kent Street Coalition – and attended her first meeting. The group will break into sub-groups to work on dedicated issues, and she’s hoping to do some activism around health care issues.

“We all have to work,” she said.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)