The five courageous activists – including RAD staff and leaders – who were arrested at the New Hampshire State House in summer 2021 protesting Governor Sununu’s deeply harmful budget, spoke truth to power as they entered their pleas in court on May 13th.
The budget included the so-called “divisive concepts” policy that has inhibited teachers from talking about race and gender issues in the classroom, and a 24-week abortion ban that contained a highly invasive mandatory ultrasound requirement.
As we find ourselves in a moment when abortion rights and education justice are on the line nationwide, these activists inspire us all to step into our power and stay grounded in the fights for justice and liberation.
Read on for the full statements.
I stand before you as someone who pleads guilty for the actions I took last legislative session in a desperate attempt to use nonviolent civil disobedience to prevent injustice. I used my body to hold space not just for people who look like me, but for so many others who are treated unfairly and unjustly by institutions, whether intentional or not. To give them a voice when the State of New Hampshire was taking it away from them.
I read my documents last night to see the name of my case. It said, “The State vs. Asma.” Just as I plead guilty, your honor,the State of New Hampshire is also guilty. It is guilty for creating a law that has created chaos in our state. There are two lawsuits against this unjust law that we protested and that has had a chilling effect across our state on teachers’ ability to teach an honest and accurate history without living in fear of losing their teaching license.
After 9/11 my whole community was painted with the same brush. One of suspicion, and distrust, and to be watched. Even though the majority of Muslims had no connection to the terrorist who committed violence, we were all punished for it. This did not happen after the Oklahoma city terrorist bombing where Timothy McVeigh, a white man, committed violence. After this we did not see all white people being condemned for his actions. But after 9/11 our community had to register on lists, we were and still are surveillanced, put on No Fly Lists, and have ordinances created to ensure our communities can no longer build places of worship in the towns in which we live. We still get pulled aside in airports and can be arrested and never told why as long as the excuse is terrorist activity in which we can’t even defend ourselves because we dont even know what to defend. This is called institutional racism.
When I get pulled aside 90 percent of the time in airports, this is called institutional racism. And now, a bill was passed that forbids teaching institutional racism. Your Honor, we cannot afford to skip important lessons of the complicated history of our country. If we are to heal and grow as a society, we need to teach the good and the bad, the triumphs and the tragedies. We need an honest history, not only so that our children can learn from society’s mistakes of the past, but also that there were always everyday people – Black, Brown and white folks – who worked together to right those wrongs and who organized for our country to be more fair and equitable to everyone. These are lessons we need desperately today.
When the state passes draconian laws that restrict the freedoms and rights of its citizens, it is our DUTY to stand up. Now, as we see the right to an abortion under attack, it is our duty to stand. The same people who are attacking public education are the same people attacking abortion rights as well. So we will resist all forms of oppression.
So, Judge Macintire, my admittance to guilt is one I will hold with me in pride standing up to the unjust actions of the State of New Hampshire. Just as freedom fighters of the past have resisted, we will continue to resist until everyone can truly be a part of the multiracial democracy we have yet to fully birth.
– Asma Elhuni, former NH Movement Politics Director with Rights & Democracy and current Lead Organizer with Race Forward’s H.E.A.L. Together initiative
Thank you, your honor. It’s difficult to keep a group of activists quiet, so we truly appreciate your time in allowing us to speak. I want to echo everything my fellow defendants have said and all that I can add is that it was no coincidence or mistake that both anti-CRT rhetoric and an abortion ban were snuck into the budget signed by Governor Sununu last year. When Roe v. Wade was initially codified by the US Supreme Court, it was met with majority support of Americans. Both the left and right believed in safe access to family planning services. It was only when Jimmy Carter, a loud anti-segregationist, became the democratic nominee, that suddenly the right became pro-life, not out of belief that life begins at conception, not for the sanctity of life, but simply as a ploy to trick conservative Christian Americans into contributing to more systemic racism and removing any remaining bodily autonomy for Black and brown women in this country. And it obviously worked, because here we are. I am a mother, your honor, and as of three weeks ago, a single one at that. I refuse to raise my daughter in a world where she has neither a right to her history or to her own body. I am guilty, your honor, and with full respect, I will keep being guilty of loudly fighting for the world that she and her friends deserve to inherit. It’s definitely not the world that Chris Sununu signed into law away from the public eye. Thank you.
– Ali Brokenshire, NH Organizing Director with Rights & Democracy