Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate today to support the journalism you rely on!

'I came prepared for them': Nashua Pride attendees worry about hate groups in NH

Vanessa Haydel, August Quinno, and Trevor Wood enjoy the musical performances behind the stage at the Nashua Pride celebration. Haydel said they can't understand how in 2023, with so many resources to learn about one another, people can still be “so hateful and ignorant.”
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Photo caption: Vanessa Haydel, August Quinno, and Trevor Wood enjoy the musical performances behind the stage. About the rise of hate speech in New Hampshire, Haydel says they can't understand how in 2023, with so many resources to learn about one another, people can still be “so hateful and ignorant.”

Despite intermittent rain, people fluttered rainbow flags in the Nashua Public Library parking lot Saturday and enjoyed live music, visited information booths, and paraded on Main Street.

While the crowd sang along to a cover of a song by the band 4 Non Blondes, August Quinno and their friends sought refuge against the rain at the library’s main door. When the rain stopped for a while, they stayed there, enjoying the music.

Quinno wore flowers in their pink hair, and their friend Vanessa Haydel had adorned their faces with colorful hearts. Nashua Public Library has always been a shelter for them, they said, and both noted librarians' role in their journeys of self-discovery.

“It has always been accepting,” Quinno said.

“Here, I never felt like an outcast,” said Haydel.

Haydel also appreciates libraries' work, helping expand people’s minds to diverse communities. That is very important for them, especially as the celebration also served as a reminder of a recent surge in hate speech and extremist groups in New Hampshire.

Last week NSC-131, a New England-based white supremacist group, gathered outside a Concord cafe,chanting and displaying Nazi salutes, while the space hosted a drag story hour.

Lacy Bebe, a performer who strolled around the resource booths, agreed with the two friends about the library's efforts.

“When you read, you understand other people's point of view,” Bebe said. “We need to communicate with [the extreme groups] and let them know we will never change.”

The demonstrations in Concord a week earlier made her a little concerned about what could happen at the Nashua parade if similar groups showed up. But although she worried about her safety in the weeks before the parade, once she got to the parking lot, she felt love and unity.

“I forgot about all that,” she said

Lacy Bebe is a pop artist who plays keyboards and original songs; she goes by the stage name “Who I Am.”
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Lacy Bebe is a pop artist who plays keyboards and original songs; she goes by the stage name “Who I Am.”

Sasha Strom, a Nashua Public Health Department nurse, was staffing a van offering HIV prevention medication and STD testing. She also worried about her safety.

“We have extra barricades to prevent someone driving into the crowd and a drone monitoring all activities,” she said.

In another booth, Judith Patton, an employee at Pflag, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and their families, handed out flyers and pins.

She was also concerned about last weekend's events in Concord and asked local authorities to acknowledge that these acts and groups are becoming a threat in New Hampshire.

“That behavior is not human,” she said.

Storms wants others to know that family support is important to keep youth safe amid hateful demonstrations. Other organizations said queer youth who are unhoused are the most vulnerable to attacks.

 Erin Pils-Martan attended the event with her daughter Olivia to support some friends. She said there is an urgent need for people in positions of power in New Hampshire to step up against hate. “They have to stand up for marginalized communities rather than trying to legislate them into non-existence,” she said.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Erin Pils-Martan, attended the event with her daughter Olivia to support some friends. She said there is an urgent need for people in positions of power in New Hampshire to step up against hate. “They have to stand up for marginalized communities rather than trying to legislate them into non-existence,” she said.

Alissandra Murray, a state representative, was promoting an organization that supports women who need abortions. They applauded local municipalities, like Nashua and Concord, that they said have taken stands against extremist groups.

“When you have people like Trump who are loudly spreading hate, of course, it's going to trickle down,” they said. “We [as politicians] have the responsibility to ensure we are not perpetuating that.”

But Pastor Kim Haster from Christ the King Church in Nashua said she's unsure if the local government could actually do something to stop the presence of hate groups. She says the responsibility falls more on the community.

Haster said she came prepared to face extremist groups because she had encountered them in similar events where “they held signs and shouted from the corners.”

As the stepmother of a transgender person, she said she and her community are ready to “stand in the middle and keep the hate and the hurt away from those who continuously experience that day by day.”

A Nashua police officer said no one in the festival reported any incidents involving these groups.

 Celina Del Llano and her girlfriend, Kaleigh Mcgrath, held hands at this weekend's Nashua Pride celebration. Del Llano was concerned about her safety before arriving at the parade. “I am glad to see there are always more people in support than against it,” she said.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Celina Del Llano and her girlfriend, Kaleigh Mcgrath, held hands while they learned more about a Democratic group that supports their community. De Llano was concerned about her safety before arriving at the parade. “I am glad to see there are always more people in support than against it,” she said.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.