By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Eighteen days before the presidential election, dozens of local citizens from opposite ends of the political spectrum turned Hudson’s Main Street into the site of a tense political protest. For two hours on the morning of Oct. 22, groups of marchers supporting and opposing Republican candidate Donald Trump paced up and down the downtown sidewalks. They held signs and sometimes broke into chants.
Longtime Hudson resident Kathy Ekdahl began planning the event as a protest against the controversial comments made by Trump throughout his campaign. She set up a private Facebook group and invited over 200 local citizens to the event. Of those, just shy of 20 would participate.
However, Ekdahl’s plans were leaked to local Trump supporters midway through the week leading up to the event, giving them the chance to quickly mobilize and set up their own counter-protest.
The result was two hours of vocal demonstrations with the groups meeting on multiple occasions to the sound of chanting and sign-waving, something some anti-Trump protestors said showed division in Hudson.
“Mainly it’s to take back respect and kindness in Hudson in particular; Hudson is very divided right now,” Ekdahl said of her goals with the protest, adding, “We know we’re not changing anyone’s vote. I know that and that’s OK. This is about us having a voice.”
Ekdahl had reminded her fellow protestors throughout the week to avoid confrontations with Trump supporters, instead directing her group’s focus toward opposing the language and actions of Trump himself.
The Trump contingency also attempted to lead their counter-protests as peaceful demonstrations of their principles.
“[We want to] just get the word out,” said Ralf Belmore, one of the first Trump supporters to take to the streets. “I think more and more, as we get closer to the election, our goal is to let people know what’s going on.”
Sandra Damirjian, a Lincoln native and an alternate delegate to this summer’s Republican National Convention said that, in taking Trump’s message to the streets of Hudson, she and her fellow protestors were connecting with the core of his voting population.
“Small towns are what make Donald Trump. Small people, like I’m a small business owner, are what make Donald Trump,” she said, later adding, “Donald Trump is the fireman. We want to put out the fire. The country right now is in a heated fire. Without Donald Trump, this fire is never going to stop.”
Though both groups had vowed to keep the protest peaceful, there were moments throughout the morning when tensions rose.
A set of cars adorned with American flags, confederate flags, and at least one car with several Trump signs in its windows paraded down Main Street for much of the protest, with drivers honking and, at times, shouting insults at protesters as they passed.
In another meeting in which most of the protesters came together in front of Town Hall, anti-Trump protesters walked along the sidewalk while Trump supporters positioned themselves on the lawn of the Town Hall and chanted their candidate’s name.
Later, as the protests were winding down, an anti-Trump protester holding a sign was hit with an egg thrown from a car moving down Main Street. The protester, Jim Caron of Hudson, N.H., said he didn’t see the egg thrown at him, only feeling it when it hit him. At least two of his fellow protestors did see the egging unfold, however, and were able to notify police.
“Somebody saw the license plate and someone also saw the guy’s hand go back in so that’s why we had pretty good evidence against the guy,” Caron explained. “The cops were just 100 yards down the street.”
Minutes before Caron was hit with the egg, Harrison Anable, a Hudson native unaffiliated with the anti-Trump protesters, said he was verbally attacked by a man with a Trump sign on Main Street.
“A family was walking by and [they] said something to him about not wanting to support Trump so he started [verbally] attacking them,” Anable explained. “I walked by and shook my head and he turned to me and said ‘What’s your problem?’”
Anable, who does not support Trump, said he was frustrated by the aggression displayed throughout the protests.
“I just wish that they wouldn’t be so in your face today,” Anable said. “They need to be peaceful – because the Hillary people are just walking by with their signs. I’m not going to be one to protest, but I just wish they wouldn’t interrupt family’s activities on a Saturday.”
On both sides, organizers were asking for changes either on the campaign trail or in Washington. With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gaining 29 and 19 percent of primary votes cast in Hudson respectively this spring, organizers also agreed that the town, and the country is divided.
“What’s going on is so bad as far as the economy and ISIS and the problems in this country. They are not being solved,” said Damirjian. “The country is more divided than it’s ever been.”
As the countdown to Election Day continues, protestors are hoping their community will be able mend these divisions once the dust settles.
“We did have some people today that were pleasant,” said anti-Trump protestor Elizabeth Hallsworth. “That’s what we have to build on. One day, this will all be over and we will have to rebuild.”