Amid National Turmoil Over George Floyd Death, a N.H. Perspective on Police-Minority Relations | New Hampshire Public Radio

Amid National Turmoil Over George Floyd Death, a N.H. Perspective on Police-Minority Relations

May 31, 2020

The arrest and death of George Floyd, a brutal scene captured on video, has led to both peaceful and violent protest in cities across the country.

In New Hampshire, about 800 protesters held a gathering in downtown Manchester that police described as "peaceful" and "respectful.

A much smaller group later protested at the Manchester police department. Soon after they arrived, Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano emerged and for about half an hour spoke with a few protesters in the crowd, which at times erupted angrily with chants, such as  "George Floyd," "I can't breathe," and "Don't shoot."

Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano speaks with a group that protested the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
Credit Ellen Grimm / NHPR

Behind Capano, several officers stood quietly.

Organizers of the original morning rally arrived at the station to try to head off an altercation, calm the crowd, and encourage constructive conversation. At one point some in the crowd left.

The mood changed dramatically when a pickup truck flying a Trump flag drove by.

An altercation apparently occurred between the truck occupants and the protesters, and the crowd began running toward the truck. Police also ran, overtaking the crowd and surrounding the truck, which had parked in a nearby lot.

Before long, the occupants - identified later by police as a father and son- emerged and were handcuffed and driven away in a cruiser.

It was later reported that one truck occupant had brandished a gun.  Soon after, a tow truck loaded the truck and drove away. A small crowd of protesters remained at the scene, with some passing cars honking in solidarity.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire has its own controversial arrest to contend with.

On Sunday a crowd of about 200 gathered in Conway to protest the death of George Floyd and the arrest of an Albany man earlier this month during a traffic stop. Jean Saint Preux, who is African American, recorded the incident inside his car, in which two state troopers cracked his windows to reach in. State Police claim Saint Preux “refused to produce his license and vehicle registration" and resisted arrest.

In a statement, The N.H. Attorney General’s Office has said it will conduct "an independent and comprehensive review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the May 20, 2020 arrest of Mr. Jean Saint Preux to ensure that the conduct of New Hampshire State Troopers Margaret Ready and Hawley Rae conformed with the law."

The ACLU of New Hampshire has filed a Right to Know request regarding the incident.

We will discuss these events and more with our guests, all of whom have been very involved in improving minority-police relations. We'll get their response to the death of George Floyd, the clashes between protesters and police playing out across the country, and how New Hampshire is grappling with its own issues around race and policing.

GUESTS:

Michael Carignan, Chief of the Nashua Police Department. He’s been with the department 26 years and has been chief for 9 months.  He has promoted efforts to improve police relations with the city’s African American population and with high school students through the Nashua Community Conversation on Race and Justice, a group that formed several years ago to improve community-police relations.

Sudi Lett, Youth and Education Coordinator for the Granite State Organizing Project, which works on social justice issues, including housing and education policy. He is also head coach of Varsity Basketball at Manchester Central High School. His father, Woullard Lett, was the longtime head of the NH NAACP.

Jordan Thompson, Racial justice organizer for the ACLU-NH. He is launching Black Lives Matter Nashua this week.  On Saturday, the Greater Nashua Area Branch of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter Nashua will hold a vigil and protest and call to action in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in Greeley Park.