Organizers in New Hampshire are fighting to ensure the proposed 2022 budget is not signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu. The proposed budget — which has already been passed by the House and Senate — would cut public school funding by $100 million, institute an abortion ban after 24 weeks with no exceptions, cut taxes for businesses and the wealthy, and prohibit all public institutions from teaching about systemic oppression.
Nearly 300 protesters gathered outside the State House for speeches and songs on the morning of June 24. At noon, a group of about 100 protesters entered the State House with the goal of meeting Sununu at his office to demand that he veto the budget. By the end of the day, five peaceful protesters were charged with misdemeanors for participating in a sit-in.
“Today the Senate and the House were supposed to vote on the budget and they passed it, and so we are here to make sure that the governor does not sign this into law. We are going to occupy space until we can meet with him to make sure he vetoes this budget,” said Asma Elhuni, an organizer with Rights and Democracy NH.
Protesters sang and chanted as they lined the hallway outside Sununu’s office. Individuals spoke about how this budget would affect their lives, their families and their communities.
‘This has no business being in our budget‘
One of the biggest concerns about the proposed budget is the “Divisive Concepts” language adopted from HB 544. It would prevent public institutions — including public schools — from addressing or teaching about systemic forms of oppression such as racism, sexism or ableism.
“We don’t want the State of New Hampshire to be punishing people for talking about the systemic ways they are harmed. If you can’t name a problem, you can’t fix it,” Elhuni told Liberation News. “We all carry implicit bias, we are human beings. If we’re not given the opportunity to analyze these biases, we will continue walking around not knowing about the harm we could be causing.
“Systemic racism is real and if [Gov. Sununu] doesn’t acknowledge that, he shouldn’t be representing the people. If he doesn’t understand the different ways people are being harmed in our community, he cannot be a leader for people. … For way too long our experiences have been denied, but we are standing up to say that no matter what happens with this budget, we will continue to speak our truth.”
Another major concern for protesters is the abortion ban, which not only bans all abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape, incest or health concerns, but also requires ultrasounds for all abortions before 24 weeks — a costly, invasive and usually unnecessary medical procedure.
“The abortion ban is egregious. And it’s not just an attack on women’s rights, it’s an attack on poor women. What if you don’t have health care to pay for an ultrasound?” said Joy, another protester inside the State House. “This has no business being in our budget.”
‘It’s our duty to stand up and fight back‘
Despite all of the constituents that came into the State House to talk with him, Governor Sununu could not be found. A group of about a dozen protesters continued waiting outside Sununu’s office until 5 p.m. when the State House closed, risking arrest for criminal trespassing.
Joy told Liberation News that they decided to risk arrest because: “I see this budget as an extreme attack on education, women’s rights, everyone’s rights — and lumped in is another tax cut for the rich, so it’s a war on poor people. It’s our duty to show up and fight back.”
Protesters continued chanting and singing inside for five hours until the State House closed. Six state troopers entered and charged five remaining demonstrators with misdemeanors for trespassing. Members of the press were told they would also be charged with trespassing if they did not leave the building while the charges were taking place. Those charged were not detained and left within the hour.
“It’s important to remember that this fight back isn’t just against Republicans,” said Joy. “It’s not against bad budgets or bad bills. Oppression is baked into this system — patriarchy, racism, colonialism, imperialism, are all part of the base of capitalism. These systems of oppression won’t be dismantled without dismantling capitalism. We can’t just vote in the change we want to see. We have to build an entirely new system.”
Currently, the budget sits on Sununu’s desk waiting to be signed into law or vetoed.