Dozens of Rights & Democracy members joined a peaceful protest outside President Trump’s campaign rally at the SNHU arena in Manchester on Thursday evening.
Carrying signs that read “No Hate in the Granite State” and singing “This Land is Your
Land,” they were a colorful, vibrant, joyful group.
But it was a mixed experience for everyone involved. Some beautiful moments interwoven with some equally wretched and frightening moments.
Several RAD members participated in a “peacekeeper training” prior to the protest. They were taught how to de-escalate tensions that might arise to ensure that opportunities for confrontation were kept to a minimum.
Working as a trained peacekeeper, RAD activist Nicolette Gala Grano of Salisbury had to be quick on her feet. She was hypervigilant about noticing and stopping conflict before it escalated on either side of the police barricade. When she saw that the Manchester police were directing rally-goers close to the space where protesters were permitted to gather, she knew she had to do intervene. Placing herself between rally-goers and protesters, she estimated that she and the other peacekeepers were able to prevent prevent hundreds of needless altercations from taking place between the two groups.
Gala Grano also described experiencing several scary moments of being jostled and yelled at, especially as the night went on and the rally-goers became increasingly inebriated.
Sebastian Fuentes, a RAD board member from Thornton, NH, also came away with
serious frustrations about what he’d seen and experienced. An immigrant from Peru, he has experienced his share of racism in northern New Hampshire, but nothing like this. He had a ticket to go inside the rally, but standing in line he heard someone say behind him
“wetbacks not welcome here” Turning around to face the person, not saying a word, Fuentes later recounted seeing “the true darkness of racism shining bright” in the person’s face.
“America you are better than this,” he said. “You can do much better than this.”
Vickie Lampron a RAD member from Bennington, VT found the experience, “interesting, stressful, and hopeful.” She was thankful for the “solidarity, clear minds and open hearts of fellow peacekeepers and Rights & Democracy members. But she was unnerved and disturbed by the “vileness” of so many of the rally-goers, spitting, swearing and hurling ugly words. “I saw an awful side of humanity tonight,” she said.
The Martin Luther King quote, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” stands out as more important than ever for everyone who cares about our country to keep in mind as we move forward.
We at Rights & Democracy are proud of our work last night to keep the peace and offset the hateful energy of the rally.
And we are likewise thankful that we can put our energies elsewhere now that the rally is behind us.
Speaking of which, have you reserved your tickets for the New Hampshire People’s Presidential Forum? It’s happening on October 13 at UNH Durham. It’s going to be a fascinating conversation featuring Granite Staters speaking with candidates about the issues we care about. You gotta be there!