Newfields police issued citations on Tuesday to a group of protestors who gathered outside the home of Gov. Chris Sununu in defiance of a recently passed ordinance that prohibits picketing in the town.
The ordinance, which was passed on December 22 by the selectboard, outlaws protests “before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in the Town,” with violators subject to $100 fines.
The measure came in response to regular protests near Sununu’s home that began shortly after he issued a statewide mask mandate in November.
Among those cited for violating the ordinance on Tuesday was a NH Journal reporter who was covering the rally.
Newfields police ignored multiple requests for comment by NHPR Tuesday. The town’s police lieutenant told the Union Leader that nine protestors were issued citations, and a tenth person was arrested for trespassing.
No members of the Newfields selectboard, which includes Michael Sununu, the governor’s brother, responded to a request for comment.
The ordinance was discussed during a board meeting earlier this month.
According to the December 8 meeting minutes, the weekly protests have required additional state and local police. Chief Nathan Liebenow told the selectboard that the protests have had a “significant impact on the tranquility of the neighborhood” and are straining the town's small police department.
“The intention of this ordinance is not to suppress or violate anyone’s constitutional right to free speech,” Liebenow told the board, according to the meeting minutes. “It is an effort to balance the peoples’ right to live without disturbance and harassment in their own homes."
The Attorney General’s office believes the ordinance is constitutional, telling the board it provides a “simple solution” to the ongoing protests.
“The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that one cannot weaponize the First Amendment to force your way into a home of another person,” said state attorney Matthew Broadhead, according to the meeting minutes. “This ordinance is near verbatim to one that the Supreme Court had affirmed in a prior case.”