How Trump’s D.C. rally ignited a firestorm in a small New Hampshire town
A small New Hampshire community is reeling from the aftershocks emanating from Washington, D.C., in the wake of last week’s rally staged by President Donald Trump, held shortly before a mob sieged the Capitol building.
Officials in Troy, located about 10 miles south of Keene, have closed Town Hall, save for appointment-only services, after becoming besieged with threats in phone calls and emails, Dick Thackston, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told Boston.com Wednesday.
“We can’t even take a phone call,” he said. “We can’t even answer the phones because they just ring continuously. Hang up the phone, and another one calls.”
The connecting thread between the unrest in Washington and that which was whisked into Troy is local Police Chief David Ellis, 60, who attended the president’s event outside the White House.
In his rambling speech on Jan. 6, Trump continued to push unsubstantiated election fraud claims and urged supporters to “fight like hell.” His address has been under sharp scrutiny over the past week and formed the basis of the impeachment championed by House Democrats who allege the president’s words incited the subsequent riot, during which five people died.
Ellis was forthcoming about his attendance at the president’s political event to a reporter for New York magazine while he was in Washington. But he also denounced the Capitol break-in by other participants, telling the publication the move “was not going to solve a thing, and then to see the police get treated the way they were, it’s ridiculous.”
Ellis, however, did not second-guess his decision to turn out that day, even in light of the insurrection, according to the magazine.
“There’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people,” he said. “Like me.”
In the week since, local officials have received a seemingly unending litany of complaints and threats, many of them calling for Ellis to be removed from his post based off his presence at the rally, according to Thackston.
The demands have rocked the quaint town of just over 2,000. Most come from places outside Troy, now bearing the far-reaching ire of a nation divided.
“Many of them are profane. Many of them are threatening,” Thackston said. “Many of them are not very bright.”
Officials turned over the threats to the police, who advised that though the tirades are rather vague, the town — whose main office houses two full-time and two part-time employees — should take precautions, he said.
In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio last week, Ellis said he attended the rally as a spectator because “it was going to be a historic thing.”
He turned away from the crowds heading to Capitol Hill out of fear that the scene could unravel into violence, he said.
“I witnessed the people harassing the riot police that were getting in their gear on Constitution Ave., as I’m walking back to get to the train station at Union Station,” he told the news station. “It was ridiculous, people were giving police such a hard time.”
Ellis has been a supporter of Trump since 2016, partially because he lost his stepdaughter to an opioid overdose, he said. He thought Trump would be the best official to tackle the drug epidemic.
“I just believed in a lot of the things he said he could do,” Ellis said. “Where the other politicians didn’t make me feel that way.”
Ellis did not respond to a message left by Boston.com with a dispatcher on Wednesday afternoon.
Last year, Ellis’s support for Trump took the form of a “Trump 2020 — No More Bulls***t” flag and signs backing the president that were displayed in his office, according to NHPR.
The display was captured on an officer’s body camera video, and images in turn prompted the Cheshire County Attorney to recommend Ellis take it all down, the news station reports. Ellis said he complied.
“If I realized it was wrong, I definitely wouldn’t have done it to begin with,” he said.
On the Troy town website, visitors to the home page are now informed Town Hall will operate under normal hours, but the doors will remain locked “for the time being.”
“Sorry, but this seems to be required by prudence at this time,” the page says.
According to NHPR, Thackston, a Republican himself, denounced the siege on the Capitol building and stood by Ellis in a public statement delivered during a Jan. 7 board meeting. He called the chief an “honest, competent, hardworking public servant.”
Asked Wednesday whether Ellis should resign, Thackston said, “There would be no basis for that.”
If the board was to take any action, it would be a personnel matter, he said.
“And (Ellis’) actions would be protected both by the First Amendment and the Hatch Act. So there’s those two things,” Thackston said. “But other than that, we have no plan for further public comment at this time.
“The general sense is that … the people in the town of Troy know this man and like this man, and respect this man (and) are more than happy with him,” he continued. “And this is a guy who is more likely to be pulling a kitten out of a tree, walking an old lady to the grocery store, helping somebody from out of town change the tire on their car. That’s who this guy is.”
Troy sits nestled “at the base of beautiful Mount Monadnock,” the town website boasts. Within its borders, visitors will find “all the charms of a small, self-sufficient New England community.”
“This has been the most bizarre thing — that we would be involved in this and national news,” Thackston said of the controversy.
The last time Troy experienced anything remotely similar to this was likely almost a century ago.
In 1926, the town was front and center when President Calvin Coolidge dropped by for lunch on his way from Boston to his family’s house in Vermont, according to Thackston. Coolidge left behind a $1 tip at the local inn, he said.
“Troy is a small New Hampshire town,” Thackston said. “You know, in 1918, they sent people to drive back the Hun. In 1942, they sent people to fight Hitler. They went to Korea. They went to Vietnam, and they came home — and they just asked to live in peace in their town.”
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