Hanover voters consider Gaza cease-fire resolution following Dartmouth protester arrests

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-13-2024 6:08 PM

HANOVER — Voters will consider a resolution at Tuesday’s Town Meeting calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the West Bank and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.

The meeting takes place in the wake of the recent arrests of demonstrators at Dartmouth College, which supporters of the resolution say they view as a separate matter.

Voters will consider the petitioned warrant article during the in-person business meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Hanover High School gymnasium.

The article asks Hanover voters to support “an immediate and permanent cease-fire” between Israel and Hamas, and to urge the U.S. government to “immediately end U.S. arms shipments and military aid to the Israeli government and to use its considerable influence to ensure the safe delivery of food and medical supplies to Gaza.”

The resolution, and others like it, are a way for municipalities to sound their collective voices to elected national leaders, said Sharon Racusin, of Hanover, who filed the petition signed by 116 town residents requesting the article to consider the resolution at Town Meeting. If passed by voters, the town would send a copy of the resolution to its congressional delegation and to the Biden administration.

Similar cease-fire resolutions have already been adopted in Thetford, by voters at Town Meeting in March, and by the Lebanon City Council, which approved a written draft on April 3, by a 5-4 vote.

Racusin said she doesn’t want to conflate a conversation about the resolution with the May 1 protest at Dartmouth College that resulted in the arrest of 89 students, staff, faculty and community members.

“We don’t want to distract attention from the resolution,” Racusin said in a phone interview. “What happened on Dartmouth Green will be an ongoing issue and there is plenty of information (elsewhere) about what is going on there.”

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Selectboard Chairman Athos Rassias said in an email that the board will not discuss the campus arrests at the meeting, though the moderator determines which public comments are allowed.

Town Moderator Jeremy Eggleton said  public comments about the May 1 protest will be allowed “within reason” at Town Meeting.

“If someone offers an isolated, stray comment, would I put the hammer down? No,” Eggleton said in a phone interview. “But if six or seven people were making (similar) comments, or if it’s nearing 11 p.m. at night, I will probably say that it’s time to continue with the meeting.”

On May 1, the Hanover Police Department, accompanied by New Hampshire State Police and other law enforcement agencies, responded to a protest encampment on the green, where a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered. Protesters called for the college to divest from companies that support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

The Israel-Hamas war, now in its seventh month, has tallied death counts of over 34,800 Palestinians and 1,410 Israelis, and displaced 1.7 million people since the conflict began on Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

Nearly all of the 89 people arrested in Hanover on May 1 were charged with criminal trespassing based on a complaint issued by the college, Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said in an email last week. The charges against two student journalists have since been dropped.

Dennis, as well as all town department heads, will attend the in-person meeting, Town Manager Alex Torpey said.

A regular Selectboard meeting would be a more appropriate forum than Town Meeting to discuss an issue such as the campus arrests, Eggleton said. Town Meeting is specifically intended to vote on the warrant articles.

While the in-person meeting does not have a open forum to discuss topics not on the warrant, a person could comment during an article’s discussion on a separate, but related topic — such as bringing up the arrests of protesters during the cease-fire resolution discussion, Eggleton said. 

The last article on the warrant allows attendees to raise other items of town business, though motions made during that time are not legally binding since they haven’t been warned, Eggleton said. 

“The moderator’s job is to serve two dual and sometimes competing objectives — to move the business of the town along and to let people speak about it,” Eggleton said. “My practice is to make sure that every article gets its due in the hope that people leave feeling as though their viewpoint has been aired — whether by themselves or someone else.”

Town Meeting will be held on Tue sday in the Hanover High School gymnasium. The polls for ballot voting will take place in the gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The in-person meeting at 7 p.m. includes votes on 17 warrant articles. In addition to the cease- fire resolution, voters will be asked to consider a primary operating bud get of $31 million, as well as $4.5 million in separate articles for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Patrick Adrian can be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.