New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is canceling his outdoor inauguration ceremony next month because of public safety concerns. Armed protesters have been gathering outside his home in the weeks since he issued an order requiring masks, the Associated Press reports. “My first responsibility is ensuring the safety of my family and our citizens,” Sununu said. “For weeks, armed protesters have increasingly become more aggressive, targeting my family, protesting outside my private residence, and trespassing on my property; an outdoor public ceremony simply brings too much risk.”
Sununu said he and other officials will be sworn in during a small ceremony Jan. 7. Protesters started gathering outside Sununu’s home in Newfields on Nov. 22 over his order, which had taken effect two days earlier, requiring masks to be worn in public spaces, indoors or outside, when social distancing isn’t possible because of the pandemic. On Monday, local police issued summonses to nine people and arrested one of them under a new anti-picketing ordinance passed by the Newfields selectboard, on which Sununu’s brother sits. Skylar Bennett, 38, of Concord, said Wednesday he will contest his arrest on charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct at a candlelight vigil held outside the home. When Sununu issued the mask order, he cited the rising percentage of positive test results, the fact that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had doubled in two weeks, new outbreaks at five nursing homes, and an “incredibly alarming rate” of community transmission by people without symptoms. The order expires Jan. 15.