Concord protesters defy state's lockdown orders, call for it to end

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A man argues for ending the shutdown during a Saturday rally against the governor's stay at home orders. (Jeffrey Hastings photos)

CONCORD - 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.

The emergency order, issued March 27, mandates that people stay home unless they are working in essential businesses or other matters that have to be taken care of. He has made it clear at news conferences there are exceptions, including getting outside for a breath of fresh air.

People must limit gatherings to 10 or less people. There appeared to be more than 100 people of all ages attending the protest, but there was no official head count. They mostly appeared to ignore social distancing and most of their faces were uncovered.When issuing the order, Sununu 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.

A mask-wearing protester makes clear their dissatisfaction with the governor's orders.

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."

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 nonessential 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."

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.

Maria Heeter writes stories for the NH news nonprofit

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