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N.H. Attorney General Reviewing Whether COVID Protesters Committed Crimes

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Alli Fam
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Protesters forced the cancellation of the Executive Council meeting on Sept. 29, 2021

New Hampshire’s top law enforcement official has launched a review to determine if any of the anti-vaccine mandate protesters who forced the postponement of a meeting of the Executive Council Wednesday violated any criminal laws.

The announcement by Attorney General John Formella comes a day after Gov. Chris Sununu said the conduct of some protesters put state workers at risk.

“That’s just not going to be tolerated,” Sununu told reporters.

Meanwhile St. Anselm College, the site of the meeting and protest, says it will no longer host public meetings. The Legislature's redistricting committee was supposed to hold a listening session at the college Thursday. But the college called it off.

“At this point, with the way our politics are, having public meetings is just not compatible with places like St. Anselm College,” said Neil Levesque, director of the college's New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

The issue that drew the protestors to Wednesday’s council meeting -- contracts to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to accept $27 million in federal aid to create 13 temporary positions aimed at increasing the state’s vaccination rate -- were also on the agenda for Friday's meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee. That meeting has been postponed.

Republican leaders say lawmakers are seeking more information on the contracts, which they tabled two weeks ago. The committee’s chairman, Kingston Republican Ken Weyler, clashed at that earlier meeting with state Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette over vaccine efficacy. Weyler claimed, without citing evidence, that the vast majority of those being hospitalized for COVID-19 were vaccinated. Shibinette accused Weyler of spreading misinformation.

Those contracts will likely be debated by the Fiscal Committee again next month. State House officials say they see no need for enhanced security in light of what happened Wednesday.

“We are steady as we go,” said Terry Pfaff, the Legislature’s Chief Operating Officer. “We have our protocols in place; that are always in place.”

Protocols for the next meeting of the Executive Council remain unclear. Neither the governor’s officer nor the Department of Safety Responded to NHPR’s request for information.

But Executive Councilor Joe Kenney said he expects safety officials and the governor to settle on a plan for the next council meeting soon.

“I think they are kind of circling wagons right now to determine what is the best for public safety and the right forum in which to have the meeting,” Kenney said.