With angry shouts of “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free,” a mob of anti-Israel protesters shut down the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting Tuesday night, upset they were only given the first hour of the meeting to make their case against the Jewish state.

The protest was part of an effort organized by a group calling itself “Southern NH for Palestine,” along with help from “WorkersCongressNH,” the New Hampshire chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, as well as the Socialist Party of Southern New Hampshire.

After more than 50 minutes of statements from supporters of the “ceasefire” resolution, featuring comparisons of Israel’s government to Nazi Germany and false accusations that the Jewish state is engaged in “genocide,” Mayor Jay Ruais and the board voted to accept the rest of the public comment in written form so they could move on to actual city business.


Kathy Richmond, chair of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire, responds to the ‘Cease Fire’ resolution.


The protesters erupted, screaming and shouting and making it impossible for the BMA meeting to continue. Some shouted, “Shame on all of you” at the board while others chanted, “No justice, no peace” and “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.”

(Israel’s military withdrew from Gaza, and Israeli settlements were unilaterally dismantled in 2005.)

Despite the presence of law enforcement, including Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, no action was taken to stop the tumult. Instead, the board gave in to the protesters and allowed one more person to speak. The speaker was Salaam Odeh, whose name had been called earlier from the list of those who had signed up to speak, but she failed to come forward at the time.

After Odeh completed her remarks — which repeated the claims of “genocide” and “occupation” — the BMA moved on to official business.

Ruais, who campaigned on a platform of cooperation and dialogue, was not happy with the protesters’ behavior.

“Our public discourse always has to be respectful in keeping with our rules regarding decorum, and any disruption of city business is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Which is why I worked with Manchester Police to immediately deescalate the situation and move on to city business,” Ruais told NHJournal.

“I firmly believe that listening to the public is an essential part of governing, as evidenced by the public comment period routinely going beyond the 30 minutes allowed by the Rules of Board of Mayor and Aldermen. But what we witnessed on Tuesday crossed the line. Furthermore, the proposed resolution is not germane to the business of the City of Manchester, and I will not entertain it as mayor.”

As for the language used by the protesters, particularly the antisemitic “From the river to the sea” chant: “The mayor says is it reprehensible and disgusting and that language has no reasonable discourse,” a spokesperson said.

BMA Chairman Joe Kelly Levasseur said he also found the protesters’ actions disturbing.

“For the first time in 13 years on the BMA, I was seriously concerned for my safety and the safety of the mayor and aldermen,” Levasseur told NHJournal. “The irony of these individuals seeking peace in the Middle East, yet acting in the violent manner they did, should not be lost on anyone.”

And, like Ruais, Levasseur said the issue has nothing to do with governing the Queen City.

“The BMA has no reason whatsoever to become involved in a conflict between Israel and Hamas, and no one on the BMA should be bullied into becoming involved. On a personal note, I do believe Israel has the right to destroy Hamas, wherever they may be, to protect its citizens and its sovereignty.”

The resolution protesters want the BMA to pass calls for a ceasefire by all parties in the Israel-Hamas war and the release of “hostages and political prisoners held by both sides.” It also “demands an end to U.S. military aid” to Israel and would establish a city committee to “divest and prevent” Manchester from doing business with “all entities involved in the U.S,-Israeli military-industrial complex.”

According to Reuters, approximately 50 municipalities have passed resolutions calling for Israel to end its military action against Hamas. About half as many have passed resolutions condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.

As part of that effort, Granite State activists were also out in force in Durham and Portsmouth this week, pushing the same ceasefire resolution — but without the drama. The activists caused no disruptions, and they were allowed copious time to speak Tuesday night in Portsmouth. After more than an hour of pro-Palestinian statements,  Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern expressed solidarity with the activists without committing to a ceasefire resolution.

“We’ve received your passionate pleas and speeches,” McEachern said. “If this is to come up for a vote, it will be noticed for the next council meeting.”

Durham’s Town Council went further on Monday night, agreeing to draft its own resolution calling for a ceasefire. Chair Sally Needell told NHJournal the draft, which is yet to be written, will call for a ceasefire in Gaza and an increase in access to humanitarian aid. Durham’s resolution will be presented to the council for a vote at its March 4 meeting.

Town councilors felt it important to support a ceasefire, but Needell said they wanted any resolution to be crafted in-house. The activists at Durham’s meeting spoke for more than an hour Monday night, and like in Portsmouth, the discussion was orderly and respectful.

“It was a very positive conversation that we had,”  Needell said.

Manchester has not passed any resolutions related to the current conflict, and multiple sources say it is extremely unlikely to do so.

“They’re certainly passionate, but I was pretty upset that they got really out of control,” Ward 2 Alderman Dan Goonan told Manchester Ink Link. “I don’t think this was the proper way to put their point across. As far as the Aldermanic Board, I think they did (their cause) a whole lot more harm than good.”

With additional reporting by Damien Fisher.