By PAT GROSSMITH, Manchester Ink Link
MANCHESTER, NH – A peaceful sit-in by Black Lives Matters protesters outside the Manchester Police Department Saturday was interrupted when a truck displaying a large Trump flag drove by the group at about 1:30 p.m. A confrontation between the truck’s driver and the group ended with a gun threat and two arrests.
The driver of the truck, Scott Kimball, 43, and passenger, his son, Mark Kimball, 19, were arrested and charged with felony riot and felony criminal threatening, according to police. As of 5 p.m., there was still “activity” outside the police station, said Lt. Shawn McCabe, and the building remained closed to visitors for the “safety of officers and employees.”
Police declined to say where the two men were from.
Stacy Harrison, a photographer on assignment for Manchester Ink Link, was at the scene when it unfolded. She said a small group of protesters gathered at the police station at 405 Valley St. after the Elm Street demonstration. It was an effort to initiate a dialog with law enforcement, according to organizers of the earlier march, which drew an estimated 1,000 people.
The march itself was peaceful and organizers even had two people offering participants free face masks (cognizant of social distancing in the age of COVID-19) in baskets at the end of ski poles.
At the police station, however, things turned ugly when a young man saw a black pickup truck with a huge Trump flag in its bed heading up Valley Street, from Elm Street, and nearing the police station.
Harrison said the protester, who she described as a black man in his late teens or early 20s, started swearing. She turned to see what he was looking at and saw the truck. The driver and passenger were both white males.
“Every nasty possible thing you can think he was swearing at the truck,” she said.
Harrison said as the truck crawled by her and her 15-year-old daughter, the occupants of the truck – a driver and passenger – began hurling insults at the young man. The young man responded with his own diatribe.
She thought those in the truck were going to yell whatever they were going to yell and then keep going but then the young man went toward the truck and a heated exchange took place.
“They were yelling the “N” word,” she said. “They were screaming at each other and I heard the word “Trump” a few times.”
By then other people saw what was happening and headed toward the truck as well.
“They all sort of swarmed like a bunch of bees towards the truck,” she said. The driver pulled the truck over into the parking lot outside Associated Concrete Coatings and the yelling continued. Someone threw something that was white – Harrison thought it might be a piece of paper, a bottle cap or a water bottle – which bounced off the driver’s window.
Then she saw something black being waved around by someone in the truck and heard shouts of, “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.”
Officers immediately surrounded the truck. Initially, she said there were 20 to 25 officers but more streamed out of the station. She estimated there were about 60 officers in the street by the time two men were taken into custody.
Melissa Bernardin, a longtime resident of Concord, was also at police headquarters when the violence erupted. She had come to Manchester Saturday morning to support the cause, and was part of the group that moved from Elm Street to police headquarters.
“By the time I arrived the situation had gone from tense to a positive dialogue with police,” Bernardin said.
At some point she said she noticed a pick-up truck drive slowly by the police station displaying a large Trump flag. Several minutes later she saw the same truck coming back from the other direction.
She regarded the people in the truck as instigators.
“Some of the protesters who also saw the truck started yelling at the truck. I recall seeing a protester throw a water bottle at the truck. At that point I started running toward the truck to try and deescalate the situation because I know it wasn’t going to turn into anything good,” Bernardin said.
“I saw the driver of the truck jump out with a gun at which point I ran away to seek shelter behind a concrete lamp post, but I heard the driver cocked and pointed the gun at the crowd. And then I heard that the passenger got out and drew his gun out of his holster but that he didn’t point it at anyone.”
Although Manchester is far removed from Minneapolis, she suspects people came out in solidarity with the Black Life Matters movement here for the same reason she did.
“The issue of racism and police brutality in our country is one that touches all communities, and while there may be different levels of racism and police brutality against people of color in different communities, we all feel every human deserves to be treated with dignity,” Bernardin says. “We feel solidarity with individuals who are killed at the hands of police.”
She says she considers herself a white ally of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve personally come to an understanding of how prevalent racism and violence against people of color is in our society through reading and learning and following the news, and the more you follow it the more heartbreaking it is,” Bernardin said. “I can’t see any way not to join a protest in solidarity with those being directly affected by police brutality.”
She said she’s thankful the day’s events were mostly peaceful.
“I’m thankful the men who jumped out of the truck with guns didn’t kill anyone. It’s terrifying to me that a group of people who show up in public to demonstrate because they care about the intrinsic value of human life could have to face down such a terrifying threat.”
In a news release, police agreed that the Black Lives Matter demonstration earlier in the day was peaceful and those in attendance were respectful of each other and police. No one was arrested.
After the march, 100 people gathered outside the station when about 1:30 p.m. the confrontation occurred
Police confirmed one of the truck’s occupants pulled out a gun – they did not say whether it was the passenger or driver – but both were taken into custody. They were being booked Saturday afternoon. Police said their identities will be released later.
People remained outside the station after the arrests were made. Police Chief Carlo Capano and Assistant Chief Ryan Grant talked with protesters following the arrests.
In one video recording, posted online by Matthew Lawrence, Capano is heard talking about what happened to George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died after Officer Derek Chauvin held his foot on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder.
“[What happened to George Floyd] disgusts me and every police officer standing behind me,” Capano said. “Nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop.”
As of 2:30 p.m., some people were still outside the police station. Police said while the department is open, the building is closed “for the safety of our officers and employees,” according to the news release issued by Public Information Officer Heather Hamel.
Carol Robidoux contributed to this report.