The day before the New Hampshire Primary is typically a busy one for candidates, who rush from rally to rally in order to inspire their followers and reach the last few undecided voters. Newt Gingrich was planning a 6 PM stop at his own downtown Manchester campaign office, in between a 4 PM “town hall meeting” in Hudson and an 8 PM visit to a Concord sports bar. By 5:45, the sidewalk in front of the office was crowded with Occupy activists carrying “money out of politics” signs and Ron Paul supporters, plus reporters and Gingrich campaign workers. That late in a busy, daylong schedule, it’s normal for candidates to be late, so Vermin Supreme, the provocateur clown candidate who promises everyone will get a free pony if he is elected, had a perfect stage for his performance.
Inside the campaign office, it also grew crowded with Newt fans and reporters. I took off my 99% pin and slipped in, finding a spot at the back of the room near the reception desk. I was hoping for a chance to ask Gingrich how he would address the corrupting influence of the country’s widening wealth disparities. The only spot in the room where there was room for Newt was behind the reception desk, so I thought I’d be literally in his face. While I waited I had a friendly talk with Rhonda and Grace, both local Republicans. (Rhonda and I agreed “Medicare for All” would be a good way to settle the health care debate.) Outside, Occupiers decided to split their ranks between the front and back doors to the building.
At about 7 PM, reporters started to leave. New Hampshire campaign manager, Andrew Hemingway, worked the room and told disappointed Newt fans that the former Speaker was not coming, apparently due to security issues created by protesters.
As the New York Times reported, “His campaign’s security team pulled the plug on the event after determining that the front and back entrances to the office were unsafe for Mr. Gingrich and his wife to enter, said R.C. Hammond, the campaign spokesman.”
Occupiers marched off to Jillian’s, a mill district restaurant where Rick Santorum had a 7:15 PM event, hoping to repeat their performance. Needless to say, I missed my chance to have a chat with Newt.
Republicans weren’t the only ones to get the Occupy treatment yesterday. A couple dozen Occupy activists, from several northeastern states, shut down the Obama campaign office in Manchester for more than an hour, demanding an end to the “cozy relationship between Wall Street and Corporations and the White House and Congress.”
The daily General Assembly was a short visit from Captain Robert Cunha of the Manchester Police Department, who commended the activists for “cooperation at the Obama office.” He noted that conflicts between law enforcement and the Occupy movement, which he called “bumps in the road,” are likely to take place, but stressed that “cooperation goes a long way.” Local activists expressed their interest in continuing to have open communication with the police, and re-stated that there are no plans to interfere with voting today. Captain Cunha also said an investigation is underway following an alleged assault by a campaign worker against an Occupier the previous day, apparently during Newt Gingrich’s visit to the Don Quijote restaurant.
Occupy the NH Primary will wrap up at MacNeil’s Banquet Facility, 837 Second St. on the West Side of Manchester, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm today. “The McNeil’s have offered their banquet room to Occupy NH without charge. We have to bring our own food. We can potluck, order BBQ from KC’s rib shack, etc. Bring some $$ for beer/wine/soda,” says the OccupyNH web page.