MANCHESTER, N.H. – In reaction to a proposed mask mandate potentially returning to the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen at some point in the future, activists gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday to protest new rules arising in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Senate Candidate Carla Gericke, a Republican running against Incumbent Democratic State Senator Lou D’Allesandro in Goffstown and Manchester’s West Side, came both to promote her own campaign as well as to support the re-opening rally.
Gericke said that any mask mandate by the Aldermen would be a poor decision and she believes requiring anyone to wear a specific piece of clothing goes beyond what governments should be allowed to do.
“If we’re starting to force people to do things to their own corpus, their own body, that’s an issue and something we should be talking about,” she said.
Curt Howland was at the rally to hold signs for Gericke, but reports he has also participated in other comparable re-opening rallies in the past.
Howland felt that the pandemic could have been managed quickly, but ultimately it has been allowed to linger in order to give government entities more authority over citizens.
He believes that with enough data, individuals could make rational choices to keep themselves safe from the virus and eventually react to new information they receive rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all solution.
On Tuesday, as well as in other rallies, he’s reported that few people driving by have supported or shunned the signs he’s held, most likely from a fatigue regarding the pandemic. Ultimately, he believes the public at large only listen to government guidance on COVID-19 with the hope that if they do so, they will not face further restrictions in their everyday life.
“Most people just want to be left alone,” he said. “They just want this to all go away.”
For Mike Cummings, Communications Director of the New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus, Gericke’s attitude a microcosm with a larger trend found amongst Republicans locally and nationally and a stark contrast with an emphasis on safety put forth by the Democratic Party, such as at a Democratic event held in nearly the exact same location just hours earlier.
“The sad truth is that New Hampshire Republicans pretend that there never was a pandemic. Because of rhetoric like this and Donald Trump’s mismanagement of the crisis, we’re in this mess,” said Cummings. The health and safety of our staff, candidates, voters, and all Granite Staters will remain the first priority for Democrats across the state.”
Some people wearing masks, such as one man named Charlie, were walking by when found themselves caught in arguments with members of the rally.
Charlie, who did not feel comfortable giving his last name due to the hostile reaction he received from the members of the rally, was bringing food home to his family when the conversation with the rally members began.
“What I wanted to do is see if I could have a civil conversation, but obviously I can’t,” he said. “There’s too much combativeness, everyone is caught in their own dogma.”
Several members of the rally participated in the public comment portion of that night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, with one of the members yelling things at the board until convinced to participate in the public comment session.
That man, who called himself “Foot Loose,” believed that measures geared toward safety during the pandemic have been ineffective and even harmful toward those recovering from substance abuse.
“The 12-step program is holding meetings in a parking lot, while trying to stay open so it can continue getting state funding,” he said in regard to efforts at Hope for NH, where he volunteers.
“Loose” also later questioned the validity of the COVID-19 virus itself as well as Governor Sununu’s authority to respond to it.