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‘This is crazy’: New Hampshire separatists call for state to secede from union

Joggers ran by the empty State Capital in Concord, N.H. on Jan. 17, 2021.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

A long-shot proposal by a group of separatists to make New Hampshire its own independent nation was likely killed in committee at the end of last week, following a packed public hearing that consisted of approximately three hours of testimony.

The measure would seek to change the state’s constitution to say that New Hampshire “peaceably declares independence from the United States and immediately proceeds as a sovereign nation.”

“I think it deserves a resounding no. I think Governor Sununu says it quite well. When you hear crazy knocking at the door, you slam it shut,” said Representative Brodie Deshaies, a Republican, during a roll call vote on the bill Friday. “This is crazy. This is unconstitutional. This is a violation of our oath.”

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In a unanimous vote, the New Hampshire House Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs signaled they were against the bill. But the Senate committee will receive the measure as well, Deshaies noted during the discussion. Every bill introduced in New Hampshire must receive a committee hearing by law.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment crowded a legislative office building the day prior to push for the measure to move along in the lawmaking process and eventually be put before voters at the ballot box. In order for such an amendment to pass in the Granite State, it would first require the approval of three-fifths of state legislators and then two-thirds of voters during the general election in November.

Representative Mike Sylvia, the primary sponsor of the bill, has deployed racist stereotypes about undocumented immigrants to further the argument for secession, the Concord Monitor reported in December. He is also one of several lawmakers who signed a “termination of the state” document that called Sununu a “tyrant,” declared New Hampshire’s government illegitimate, and said the 2020 presidential election was void, the Monitor reported.

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Sylvia is one of seven Republican representatives backing the effort for independence — one that has been also been pushed by political factions in other states in recent years.

“Some believe this is a laughable question. Do they fear the answer?” Sylvia began during his testimony. “Some believe that the question of independence has been settled. If so, then our state’s sovereignty has been stolen.”

“The people of our state reserved to themselves every power not expressly delegated,” including the “right to revolution,” he continued. “We’re here today to head off any consideration of anything but the peaceful formation of a new government independent of rule from Washington, D.C.”

New Hampshire Democrats condemned the proposal as “anti-American legislation” and accused the state Republican Party of “coddling and actively promoting extremist behavior” by allowing for the measure to be filed, according to a statement from Representative Renny Cushing, the House Democratic leader.

Although such movements have existed for some time, the calls to splinter from the union in states including Wyoming and Texas have been spurred by increasing divisions over the results of the federal election and governmental responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the committee discussion on the proposal Friday, members said that the “constitutional ramifications” of New Hampshire seceding were not properly addressed during the testimony, the proposal would be in direct conflict with the state and United States Constitution, and that there was “no plan” for the aftermath.

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Deshaies, who noted he consulted with numerous constitutional and legal scholars, said “there is no way for us to have secession.” He raised the concern that fellow lawmakers might view a vote pushing the measure forward as “aiding and helping finish this race of New Hampshire secession,” which could lead to political consequences for members.

“Secession is not something that can be entertained,” he said. “Rebellion against the US Constitution is not allowed. And even legislators peacefully proposing such is still a form of rebellion.”

The committee voted 21-0 to recommend the proposal as inexpedient to legislate.

State Democrats, however, indicated they were not fully satisfied with the outcome. Representative Israel Piedra said he was “pleased” with the recommendation but found the discussion on the bill “eye-opening and very troubling.”

“In our discussion, some Republican members were more concerned with whether secession from the United States could be successfully implemented than with the concept itself,” Piedra said in a statement. “It is shameful that Republicans are so openly advocating to leave the United States of America.”


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.