Protesters gather outside City Hall calling for resignations of two aldermen from Rob Greene on Vimeo.
MANCHESTER, NH – Protesters gathered in front of the Manchester City Hall on Elm Street Tuesday in advance of the scheduled special budget meeting, calling for the resignation of At-Large Alderman Joe Levasseur and Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter. A Change.org petition echoing that sentiment has been circulating since last Friday has more than 5,300 signatures.
While the Board of Aldermen was preparing Tuesday to vote on the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget, including whether to add funding for 10 additional police officers to join the Manchester Police Department, the protesters from Black Lives Matter Manchester had something different in mind.
News of the proposed addition of officers was met with universal jeers. No one present, save perhaps four police officers on detail across the street, said they wanted to see more officers in the city budget. Suggestions were made as to how the money could be better spent – some wanted the money spent on public housing or mental health care. Others suggested education. Yet hours later the board voted down two attempts to override the expenditure cap, effectively rejecting $3.5 million in state adequate education aid for the school district.
The public protest was scheduled after aldermen Joe Kelly Levasseur and Michael Porter were both called out last week on social media by constituents for making questionable remarks. Levasseur, a personal injury attorney with an office in Manchester, called into question people in the city protesting police violence. Porter commented on a thread about how to clear protestors by using “a big old plow truck.” He has said that his comments were taken out of context, and that he meant for plows to be used as street blockades, as they were during the last Trump rally downtown.
This isn’t the first time Levasseur has been called on to resign.
In 2014, officers from the city police department claimed that Levasseur had continually attacked them online and on his television show Alderman William Shea of Ward 7 called for Lavasseur’s removal from the city council entirely at that time. A motion to censure Levasseur passed 11-2. An investigation from the attorney general’s office found no evidence of misconduct.
In 2018, Levasseur went on twitter to say an FBI agent should be “tried for treason and hung by a rope.” His comments stem from the agent being involved in an internal FBI investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s potential misuse of classified of information.
In 2019, Levasseur announced his intention to “say goodbye to the Safe Station program here in Manchester.” He called the city a “dumping ground for so many of the social ills that go on in the state.”
Several months later, a story published in the InkLink revealed that Safe Station does not cause the city’s firefighters to work overtime, and costs the city very little money every year. The idea behind Safe Station was that addicts seeking recovery could find a place where they could find help in a safe, non-judgmental way that wouldn’t land them in prison. As of this writing, no further attempts have been made to close down Safe Station by Levasseur.
Many more personal stories were aired during the protest by people who say Levasseur has over the years harassed and bullied them on social media. Elizabeth Ropp, who was elected to serve as Hillsborough County Register of Probate, said she was motivated to run to push Levasseur out of that office.
“I ran against Joe for Register of Probate in 2018 and I beat him by 5,000 votes. One of my biggest reasons for running was to defeat him, but it wasn’t my only reason,” Ropp said.
Michael Porter is serving his first term as alderman. He announced his candidacy in 2019 for Ward 8, and won shortly thereafter. As of this writing, he is currently a member of the Bar Associations for New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Protesters for the most part seemed to direct their ire toward Levasseur.
Erika Perez, 21, one of the event organizers, addressed the crowd, her anger evident and her passion, unwavering.
“Joe Kelly Levasseur has been actively racist over the Internet, in person, and harassed the public in Manchester, New Hampshire,” Perez said. “I’m not willing to wait. He needs to be fired or he needs to resign.”
Tyrrel Whitted, another young organizer of the event, had something similar to say.
“I’ve experienced racism from him. I’ve witnessed and heard of others who have claimed discrimination against them,” Whitted said. “I’m here to stand against his hate. It’s hate. That’s how I describe it.”
The young people in attendance say they are not willing to wait until November 2021 when Levasseur’s seat as Alderman-At-Large comes up for election again. They say they want both aldermen gone as soon as possible. However, there is currently no provision under NH state law for an elected official to be recalled.
The event originated from a Black Lives Matter page for Manchester on Instagram.
A list of the Aldermanic contact information is available on the city website.