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Protesters take up posts along Trump's motorcade route

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2018 9:26PM
Protesters wait Monday for the President Donald Trump's motorcade near Manchester Community College. (DOUG ALDEN/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Dozens of protesters lined downtown streets Monday for President Donald Trump’s visit to the city.

Although the theme was protesting Trump’s plans for combatting the opioid epidemic, plenty of other Trump-related topics were featured on signs and could be heard in chants.

One protester held a sign mocking Trump’s description of New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den,” while another sign simply stated “I JUST HOPE WE SURVIVE.”

“That could cover a lot of ground and that’s the whole point,” said Ken Roy of Merrimack. “There’s a lot of stuff going on that you shake your head over. There’s a lot of concern in many areas, not just the drugs.”

Brian Nolen of Bedford stood with a sign he made showing Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin embracing and the words “MY POOTY CALL.”

“It’s kind of a hit and it gets my point across,” Nolen said of the investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections. “I’m just eager for this thing to get resolved like a lot of people are.”

The crowd included a handful of Trump supporters. John Camden of Manchester stood on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Massabesic holding a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, saying he was proud to tell anyone who asked that he supports Trump.

“Don’t tread upon the common American person,” Camden said. About 50 protesters gathered at Veterans Park before splitting into groups that took up stations along the expected route of the presidential motorcade. The protesters had just about every corner across from the main fire station covered when the motorcade arrived for Trump’s look at Manchester’s “Safe Station” program for drug users.

Ryan Fowler, one of the protest organizers, said he hoped Safe Station would inspire Trump to take a different approach than his vow to crack down on drug dealers with harsher penalties, including the death penalty.

“They’re rolling out punitive measures for using and sharing drugs that are proven to make the drug addiction crisis worse. We want policy that’s based on evidence and science and data and not fear tactics.”

Fowler, himself in recovery from heroin addiction, used a megaphone to lead the group in chants and even a round of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Earlier Monday, about 20 people gathered at Grace Episcopal Church for a prayer vigil focused on the future of the “Dreamers,” who were brought illegally into the United States years ago when they were children.

After the Safe Station tour, the motorcade headed to Manchester Community College, where Trump introduced the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse.  

Some recovery advocates, law enforcement and medical professionals were skeptical about Trump’s “get tough” pledge.

Joanne Conroy, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said public perception remains an obstacle because too many people still don’t consider addiction to be a disease.

“We need to really emphasize that it’s not a moral failure,” Conroy said.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock recently received a $2.7 million federal grant that Conroy said is being used to help treat women who use opioids while pregnant.

Conroy said researchers have found that new mothers are especially motivated to get into recovery and stay clean.

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