Protests outside Sununu home banned

New Hampshire Public Radio
Published: 12/28/2020 8:48:06 PM
Modified: 12/28/2020 8:48:02 PM

After several weeks of protests near the private home of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, the town of Newfields has enacted an ordinance banning such gatherings outside private residences.

The ordinance, which was introduced by the Newfields Selectboard on Dec. 8, prohibits “any person to engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in the Town of Newfields.” Violations are subject to a $100 fine.

The board, which includes Michael Sununu, the governor’s brother, passed the measure on Dec. 22. 

Protestors began gathering on Gov. Sununu’s cul-de-sac in November after he imposed a statewide mask mandate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to waving signs, protestors used bullhorns to voice their opposition to the measure.

The group is aligned under the name Absolute Defiance, according to media reports, and includes at least one Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

According to the Selectboard’s meeting minutes, the weekly protests have required additional state and local police. Police Chief Nathan Liebenow told the Selectboard that the protests have had a “significant impact on the tranquility of the neighborhood” and are straining the small department.

“The intention of this ordinance is not to suppress or violate anyone’s constitutional right to free speech,” Liebenow told the board, according to the meeting minutes. “It is an effort to balance the peoples’ right to live without disturbance and harassment in their own homes.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office believes the ordinance is constitutional, telling the board it provides a “simple solution” to the ongoing protests.

It isn’t clear if members of Absolute Defiance may challenge the ordinance in court. A Facebook page for the group appears to have been taken down.

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