Valley News – Activists arrested over NH Statehouse budget protests to stand trial for trespassing

Posted: 08/21/2021 21:49:49 PM

Modified: 08/21/2021 21:50:06 PM

CONCORD (Reuters) – Five activists arrested for protesting the state budget in June gathered with supporters on Friday outside Concord District Court, where activists had a court date to respond to charges of criminal intrusion, and apparently failed to strike a plea deal and avoid trial.

The five demonstrators – Asma Elhuni, from Concord; Alison Brokenshire, of White River Junction; Dana Hackett, from Laconia, NH; James Graham, of Lyme; and Joy Robertson, from Keene, NH – were joined by about two dozen people outside the courthouse during the morning hearing.

On June 24, New Hampshire State Police arrested the activists for refusing to leave the Statehouse after it closed at 5 p.m. schools, a ban on abortions after 24 weeks gestation and a series of tax cuts that Democrats say will help wealthy citizens and businesses.

Activists said they failed to reach a plea deal in the case, blaming the state police.

“This morning, the state soldier assigned to our case refused to accept a reasonable plea deal that the prosecution already agreed to,” said Dana Hackett. Hackett is a member of Rights & Democracy New Hampshire, where Brokenshire and Elhuni work. “Instead, he decided to waste the money and resources on bringing us to trial.”

Lawyer Andru Volinsky, a member of the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy and a former executive adviser, said protesters arrested on similar charges can usually avoid a trial and continued legal proceedings were a waste of the state.

Rights & Democracy Movement political director Elhuni, formerly of White River Junction and Lebanon, used Friday’s protest to reaffirm his discontent with the policies they protested against in June.

“The budget that the governor promulgated is immoral in many ways,” Elhuni said, “including the so-called“ divisive concepts, ”which are part of a national cultural warfare program, to divide us as that people and stop the possibility of talking about the real story.

At a recent school board meeting in Laconia, Hackett said, she expected to discuss the city’s school mask policy, but opponents of critical race theory dominated the conversation.

“There were 50 to 100 people in this hate-spitting crowd, spitting out disinformation because they feel emboldened by the legislation that has just been enacted by our governor, Chris Sununu,” Hackett said.

Elhuni said Rights & Democracy will find ways to fight “divisive concepts” legislation.

One idea is to develop a toolkit for educators to explain how they can teach racism without breaking the law.

A test date has not yet been set.

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