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Gov. Sununu launches civil rights initiative in wake of racially charged attacks

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

December 14. 2017 1:16PM
Gov. Chris Sununu looks on as New Hampshire NAACP State Coordinator Rogers Johnson explains his role as chair of the newly created Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Lahey, left, will head up a new Civil Rights Unit in the Department of Justice. (Dave Solomon / Union Leader)



CONCORD — In the wake of racially charged incidents in Durham and Claremont, Gov. Chris Sununu has announced the formation of a new Civil Rights Unit in the Office of Attorney General and the creation of a Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

“Today is an incredibly important day for New Hampshire,” said Sununu in a Thursday morning announcement at the State House. “If we really want to be the Live Free or Die State, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

Sununu was accompanied by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, New Hampshire NAACP State Coordinator Rogers Johnson and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Lahey, who will lead the new Civil Rights Unit.

“The actions we are taking today will keep New Hampshire on the forefront of efforts to combat discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion,” Sununu said.

The new advisory council will work with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights and other state agencies to review state laws, regulations and policies and to recommend changes to combat discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion, according to the governor’s executive order creating the commission and the civil rights unit.

“The course we are about to undertake is nothing short of historic, and I am humbled that I was asked to be a part of it,” said Johnson, who has agreed to chair the council.

MacDonald said the Civil Rights Unit will investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s anti-discrimination and harrassment statutes and provide training and resources to support state and local officials in their efforts, as well.

The creation of the new unit and council was not entirely triggered by the recent events in Durham and Claremont, Sununu said, although both were mentioned by officials at the press conference.

Durham has hosted community forums to support the family of an elementary school student who was the subject of racial discrimination and physical attacks on a school bus, while Claremont continues to grapple with what has been described as the attempted lynching of an 8-year-old biracial boy by white teenagers playing with a tire swing.

“There wasn’t a single issue that spurred this along,” Sununu said. “It was an accumulation of things I’ve heard travelling the state myself.”

He also referred to the deportation threat facing 30 or so Indonesian immigrants in Dover and his recent visit to the Islamic Society of New Hampshire mosque in Manchester.

“We’ve had issues of race in a variety of different areas across the state,” he said.


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