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Sununu praises peaceful George Floyd protests, but warns against violence 

  • An estimated crowd of 1,000 people joined a Black Lives Matter rally Saturday on Elm Street. Stacy Harrison—

Monitor staff
Published: 6/1/2020 5:32:57 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu danced a careful line in response to the national protests following the death of George Floyd, praising peaceful demonstrators but warning against potential violence and looting.

At a press conference Monday, Sununu started out his remarks by highlighting the case of Floyd, an African American man whose death at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer last week unleashed anger and protests in dozens of American cities over the weekend.

“We all know that racism has no home here, and will not be tolerated anywhere in New Hampshire, and neither does violence and looting or rioting, by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

On Saturday, Sununu gave his blessing to a protest along Manchester’s Elm Street, calling organizers ahead of time to underscore that his office stood with them.

That protest did not result in property damages or police clashes seen in other cities, though two counter-protesters were arrested after pointing handguns at the crowd.

Sununu said the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, which led to the arrest of officer Derek Chauvin on third-degree murder charges, should prompt reform and “real action items” across the country.

But he also warned that law enforcement would take action against demonstrators if violence emerged.

“It has been very peaceful to date, but we know that at any moment, there’s no state, there’s no community that could potentially be immune from the potential of the violence and the rioting that we have seen unfortunately play out in other parts of the country,” he said.

The governor distanced himself from rhetoric by President Donald Trump, who urged governors Monday to “dominate” protesters with law enforcement.

“You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Trump said, according to an audio version of the call first reported by CBS. “They’re going to run over you.”

Those comments spurred backlash from activists, who have pointed to documented cases of police using force against unarmed protesters across the country this weekend.

Earlier Monday Dan Feltes, a Democratic candidate for governor, had decried the comments, calling on Sununu, a Republican, to “finally speak out against Donald Trump’s divisive and violent rhetoric,” pointing to Monday’s comments and earlier ones from the president calling some of the protesters “thugs.”

Sununu said he disagreed with the president’s advice.

“Speaking for myself, no. I don’t think that anyone needs to be dominated,” Sununu said.

But he argued that law enforcement should be deployed if violence emerged in the Granite State, and said he has been in contact with state police, local police departments, and the National Guard, which is currently assisting in the state’s COVID-19 response.

“The good news is the men and women of the National Guard are incredibly flexible. And the fact that they can transition from whether it’s working at the food bank or working in a testing center (to) kind of mobilizing themselves on the frontline of a riot or anything of that nature, they can do it,” he said. “And they can do it very quickly.”

Sununu also sought to draw a distinction between the protests happening in response to Floyd’s death – which are expected to continue through the week – and the ones that have happened in recent weeks against Sununu’s stay-at-home order, which has shuttered many businesses in response to the spread of COVID-19.

The two causes are not on the same level, Sununu argued, praising protesters during the Floyd march for wearing face masks, which have often been absent from the “re-open New Hampshire” rallies.

“Those that want to compare social injustices and the issue surrounding the murder of George Floyd, to the effectiveness of a stay at home or in social gatherings are completely missing the point,” Sununu said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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