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GOP press conference turns into protest against state COVID response

  • An NH Republican Party press conference turned into a rally at the State House on Tuesday.

  • David Cawthron (center) of Nashua came with his father (left) to the press conference that turned into a rally at the State House on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • House Speaker Sherman Packard speaks on the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/14/2021 4:18:29 PM

At first, the crowd of sign-wielding vaccine protestors cheered for the Republican legislators.

They bustled onto the grassy lawn of the State House to hear House Speaker Sherman Packard and Majority Leader Jason Osborne speak about the Biden administration’s recent announcement that businesses with more than 100 employees must require their workers to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Though it’s not clear exactly how many Granite Staters will be impacted by the new mandate, more than 200,000 residents work at companies with more than 100 employees, according to data from the NH Department of Labor.

Packard began the press conference with jabs at the White House.

“The Biden administration has done everything it can to erode personal freedom through executive orders and mandates,” he said. “House Republicans promised our constituents that we would fight against federal overreach and this is about as much as you can get federal overreach.”

Each of his points was punctuated with whoops from the crowd and flapping American flags.

His argument had been echoed by several Republican politicians, including Gov. Chris Sununu, who said he would work with other governors to “push back against this federal overreach.”

“Are you guys mad?” asked Steven Smith, the deputy speaker. “You sound mad!”

They were mad. But not just at the federal government. As more legislators took the podium to criticize the vaccine mandate, the crowd’s anger turned away from the Biden administration and towards the state government.

As Smith spoke, the crowd erupted in chants for Sununu, who was recently discharged from the hospital for a bleeding ulcer, to come out and speak.

“Where is Sununu,” they shouted.

“He just got out of the hospital!” a desperate aide tried explaining to the people a round her.

The chants continued.

“Let’s get this out of our system guys, we’re on the same page here, we’re on the same team,” said Fred Doucette, the deputy majority leader.

The group was already too far gone – several people had filled the gap between the podium and the crowd and began shouting towards the legislators. Terese Grinnell, a nurse in the Concord-area and vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, lunged from the throng with a sign that read “We will not consent, we will not comply.”

“It’s up to you to save healthcare workers,” she screamed, pointing at the podium. “Help us!”

Several New Hampshire hospitals and nursing homes have recently instituted vaccine mandates, in part because of a policy from the White House that makes vaccinated staff a condition for Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“We’re trying to do everything we can and now you’re attacking us,” Packard said.

“It’s not enough,” someone retorted.

Packard quickly thanked the crowd for attending and reminded them to call their federal representatives. Republican legislators, who he said are in agreement with his stance on the mandate, are strategizing how to push back against the Biden administration’s vaccine plan.

Packard said he wasn’t surprised by the crowd’s reaction at the press conference, but hopes their anger is directed more towards the federal government.

“We’re looking into any possibilities that we may have,” he said. “This isn’t something that you just snap your fingers and it all of a sudden happens.”


Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.



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