Protesters force delay in vote on vaccine outreach funding

September 29, 2021 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Angry opponents of the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate forced the postponement of Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, further delaying a vote on $27 million in federal aid to boost New Hampshire’s vaccination efforts.

The Republican-controlled council, a five-member panel that approves state contracts and nominations to courts and agencies, had voted this month to table a request from the state Department of Health and Human Services to spend federal pandemic relief money on a public health program manager and a dozen workers to promote the COVID-19 vaccine and address public concerns about it.

Republican lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, which also must approve the request, have done the same.


The request was back before the council on Wednesday, but the meeting in Manchester was called off after protesters moved around the room, shouting, “Shut it down,” according to video shared by WMUR-TV. After Councilor David Wheeler said state employees attending to answer questions about agenda items were in fear for the lives, one man shouted, “Mission accomplished!”

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said state police had to escort the employees to their cars after “unruly and very aggressive” behavior.

“We will not allow our state employees to be put in harm’s way simply for doing their jobs,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “Make no mistake, threatening any state employee or individuals involved in the process will not be tolerated, and we are going to continue to get the job done.”

Councilor Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat on the council, said the most difficult moment was hearing protestors tell state employees, “We know where you live.”

“It was most disturbing to hear that they were really going after our state employees,” she said in a phone interview. “This is a group of really right-wing, fringe activists who are trying to disrupt our government. They ultimately will not succeed because we will meet and we will conduct the business of the state of New Hampshire as we were elected to do.”

Officials with RebuildNH, an organization that actively opposed many of Sununu’s orders during the pandemic state of emergency, said they organized the protest outside the meeting but that those who caused the disruption inside were not connect to their group.

“Despite efforts to direct public discourse by way of letters, emails, and peaceful demonstrations outside the building, these agitators were able to feed off people’s raw emotion and misdirect them,” the group said in a press release.

Critics of the federal grants say they come with strings attached that amount to a usurpation of state sovereignty. They point to a provision in the grant paperwork that says the state would be required to “comply with existing and/or future directions and guidance” from federal health officials, but Sununu said the “vague boilerplate” doesn’t infringe on the state’s ability to manage the pandemic as it sees fit.

“That has never been the case. I would never allow that to be the case. It’s unequivocally untrue,” he said.

He said similar language has been included in other federal aid New Hampshire and every other state have accepted.

“It’s nothing unique. It’s been approved by some of the same people now questioning the funds,” he said.

Asked why he didn’t have the protestors removed from the room so the meeting could proceed, Sununu said police were concerned things would get “even more out of hand.”

A new date for the meeting has not be set.

In other coronavirus developments:



Nearly 120,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 443 new cases announced Wednesday. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,479.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 433 on Sept. 13 to 494 on Sept. 27.