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N.H. Town Hall Closes, Citing Threats After Police Chief Attended Capitol Rally

A sign supporting President Trump stands on the roadside last year in Troy, N.H.
Brian Snyder
A sign supporting President Trump stands on the roadside last year in Troy, N.H.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

Officials in Troy, N.H., are keeping the doors to their Town Hall locked after news that the town's police chief attended last week's large pro-Trump protest in Washington, D.C., triggered threats of violence.

The messages have been coming "more or less nonstop," Dick Thackston, chairman of the Troy Board of Selectmen, said by phone on Tuesday. He added that the Town Hall building only has one phone line.

"Every time we think that's got to be the last phone call or the last crazy email, there's another one," he said.

Troy is a small town of just over 2,000, whose website describesit as "a quaint New England town nestled at the base of beautiful Mount Monadnock," offering many outdoor sports. But it made headlines in the past week after revelations that police Chief David Ellis was present at the rally in Washington that devolved into a riot and attack on the U.S. Capitol.

At the Capitol complex, Ellis criticized the invasion of federal property as he gave a brief interview to New York magazine's Intelligencer, saying it was counterproductive and stating, "To see the police get treated the way they were treated, it's ridiculous."

The police chief told New Hampshire Public Radio, "I've said it before, you can't solve things by violence." But he also had no regrets about attending the protest.

"There's a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people," he told the Intelligencer. "Like me."

Since those reports emerged, the rush of calls has gotten so bad, that at times Thackston has instructed staff members to stop answering the phone so they could get work done and allow people to leave a voicemail.

The profane and irrational messages, Thackston said, are almost entirely from out of town, judging by the callers' area codes.

Last year, the police chief's support for Trump allegedly ran afoul of state law after a video circulated showing a large pro-Trump banner in Ellis' office. The police chief removed the banner after the county attorney warned it violated state laws prohibiting political paraphernalia in public buildings.

Ellis' trip to Washington led to calls for him to resign or be fired. But Thackston and others on Troy's Board of Selectmen have resisted those calls, saying while they disapprove of the attack on the Capitol, the police chief was not involved in that part of the day's events.

Troy's police station is directly behind the Town Hall building, which sits along the town's central square. The threats target both the Board of Selectmen's Office as well as Town Hall employees, according to the selectmen's office.

Thackston said he's not sure when things will die down.

"Like all of America, we're waiting to get back to normal — whatever that is," he said. He then asked, "Do we even know what normal is?"

The office said it's maintaining its regular hours – but for now, people can only enter the Town Hall building if they have an appointment.

"Sorry, but this seems to be required by prudence at this time," the selectmen's office said in its notice to anyone wanting to visit Town Hall.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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