DERRY — A political rally downtown recently raised concerns with some over safety and behavior.
That included several town councilors offering their views.
A rally supporting President Donald Trump took hold of a downtown space on Saturday, Sept. 12, near the East Broadway office of the N.H. Trump Victory organization.
Some on social media that day said those participating were behaving a bit badly, while others said it was a well-attended safe rally.
At a Town Council meeting Sept. 15, resident Johnathan West, also a Democratic candidate for a Derry state representative position, spoke out during the meeting's public forum, saying he felt some downtown businesses may have been impacted by the rally, where people gathered on the sidewalk outside the Trump office, holding signs and shouting political support for their candidate and president.
West said he felt the rally had a detrimental impact on businesses during that time, with people shouting to passing cars and blocking sidewalks.
West also felt that some rules at the Derry polling location during the primary election Sept. 8 were not being followed by fellow candidates running for office.
"Figuring out ways to bend the rules doesn't make people feel good," West said.
He credited Town Moderator Tina Guilford for all her hard work on election day as well.
But according to D.J. Burke, regional field director for the Derry Trump Victory office, the recent rally wasn't endorsed, planned or hosted by the Trump campaign.
"We didn't organize the event," he said, adding the group staking its rally claim on Broadway that day were a group of out-of-state supporters that came to Derry for a training session that afternoon. Following the training, they decided to go outside for a "sign wave."
"They organized their own event," Burke said, "and created a lot of noise. We then asked them to move down the street to a more suitable location."
Burke said the Trump office has a good relationship with nearby downtown businesses and the campaign office reached out to those businesses to talk about any issues during the rally.
Town Councilor Joshua Bourdon, also a Democratic candidate running for state Senate in District 19, thanked Burke for speaking out, taking accountability, and explaining what happened near his political office that day.
"And I love your organized passion," Bourdon said. "I support your freedom of speech, but I ask of any candidate to consider where you are doing it. There are other places of high visibility that won't impact businesses, and be safer."
Bourdon also added a personal experience, saying he was driving through town the day of that rally and "almost hit one of the supporters jaywalking through cars and holding giant signs."
Rally goers also used a bull horn, Bourdon said, to shout messages to passing cars and others downtown.
Councilor Neil Wetherbee also witnessed the rally that day and said he noticed cars blowing horns, shouting back and forth and rally attendees stepping off the sidewalk and approaching cars.
"That's when it gets to be a problem," Wetherbee said. "Everybody gets to express their opinion, but what I saw I interpreted as intimidating behavior."
Councilor Jim Morgan said the current environment is "very toxic" and he wants to make sure Derry remains safe and open to all supporting all candidates. He credited the bipartisan nature of the Town Council that works together to make things right.
Bourdon said anyone wanting to rally and support candidates should do it safely and with respect.
"I ask anybody running for office, try to be aware of where you are doing it, be respectful, take the high road and love your candidate," he said. "This isn't a partisan thing. If Joe Biden were doing something like this, I'd be all over him, too."