Nashua Proud Boys

A man wearing a Proud Boys shirt attended a recent school board meeting in Nashua.

Members of the Nashua Board of Education have gone on the defensive after representatives from the far-right Proud Boys organization showed up, for the second time, to a city school board meeting this week.

“Proud Boys come to our board meetings for what? For what? What is the purpose of them being here? Are they here for our children? I think not,” said Gloria Timmons, member of the Board of Education and president of the Nashua chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

On Monday, a group of about seven Proud Boys wearing dark sunglasses, hats and facemasks stood outside Nashua High School North at the start of Nashua’s school board meeting. They were spotted in photographs posted on social media displaying the white power symbol and holding signs reading “All lives matter, black (and) white unite,” and “Marxism has no home here.”

“I do find it concerning that we have Proud Boys showing up at our meetings,” said Jennifer Bishop, school board member, stressing the need for the community to come together and feel safe.

Hatred toward anyone is unacceptable, whether it is on social media or in public, she said, adding it is not her intention to silence anyone.

“We have a community of minorities that we need to support,” added Bishop.

Although some disguised individuals wearing Proud Boys shirts and covered faces have attended the meetings, none of them has spoken.

Raymond Guarino, a member of the Board of Education, pleaded for empathy within the community.

“I want to give a vote of confidence to our teachers. Every time someone comes here, some Proud Boy or some person who is on the right wing and they accuse our teachers of indoctrinating our students, what they do is insult the professionalism of our teachers and they insult our district,” said Guarino, adding they owe the teachers an apology.

“White people are not victims. We are not victims,” stressed Guarino, contending Emmett Till and other black men murdered in the United States without any type of justice are the real victims.

The diversity within the Gate City should be embraced and welcomed, according to Heather Raymond, president of the Board of Education.

“Nashua is the most diverse little city in New Hampshire. We have, last time I counted, over 64 different languages spoken in our school. We have people from all over the world living here,” said Raymond.

Police have been in attendance for the Board of Education meetings in recent months as some of the discussions around facemasks within the schools has become a contentious issue.

That was no exception Monday when Frank Negus Staples, a self-described freedom thinker who previously served time in jail and now manages a recovery house in Manchester, arrived at the meeting holding a sign that read, “Absolute Defiance.”

Staples said he was speaking out for the safety and wellbeing of New Hampshire’s children, contending that state law prohibits school entities and teachers from restricting the airway of any child.

Since the public comment period was for items on the agenda, and the mask issue was not on the agenda, Staples was advised to stop speaking until later in the meeting. When he did not, the microphone was turned off.

“Follow the state law. Protect our children,” he yelled.

Joanne St. John of Nashua urged the school board to keep the children safe, saying there are many legitimate concerns with the delta COVID-19 variant.

“It shouldn’t be a political issue … it is simply a public health issue. I think we have to care about our kids,” she said.