State House protesters want stay-at-home order lifted

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Signs, protesters, flags and guns: A crowd gathered at the State House Saturday at noon to demand the economy be opened in NH. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

CONCORD, NH — Protesters rallied outside the State House Saturday calling for Gov. Chris Sununu to end his stay-at-home order aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Sununu issued the emergency order March 27 telling people to stay home unless they are working in essential businesses or other matters that had to be taken care of, with a number of exceptions including getting outside for a breath of fresh air.

When Sununu announced the order, he said people are free to go for a walk, to the grocery store, to work and essential functions, but should otherwise stay at home. The order is set to continue through May 4.

People must limit gatherings to 10 or less people. There appeared to be several hundred people of all ages attending the protest, but there was no official head count.

Protesters stood tightly packed in a large group and held signs reading “Live Free or Die in Lockdown,” “Don’t Quarantine the Economy” and “Freedom Trumps the Commie Virus.” They mostly ignored social distancing and most of their faces were uncovered.

The noon protest appeared to be in violation of Sununu’s stay-at-home Order #17, which mandates most New Hampshire people stay home and all non-essential businesses close. 

Businesses and people violating COVID-19 emergency orders could face criminal charges, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald told law enforcement agencies in a memo last month. But MacDonald cautioned police to exercise discretion “with great care.”

Photo gallery by Jeffrey Hastings,

People could be charged with misdemeanors and businesses could be charged with felonies if they are found violating emergency orders, MacDonald said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, and to maintain 6-feet social distancing.

New Hampshire State Police did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Concord police deferred to State Police because it was at the State House.

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