Peace Activists Call on Pappas to Support Ceasefire, 5 arrested in Dover office

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Rev. Grishaw Jones accepts a summons to appear in court from a Dover police officer in front of U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas' office in Dover.

From left, Em Friedrichs is pictured seated on the floor. Seated in chairs are Rev. Grishaw-Jones, Janet Simmon, Amy Antonucci, and Janet Zeller at Congressman Chris Pappas’s office Friday in Dover. ARNIE ALPERT photo

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert spent decades as a community organizer/educator in NH movements for social justice and peace.  Officially retired since 2020, he keeps his hands (and feet) in the activist world while writing about past and present social movements.

By Arnie Alpert, Active with the Activists

DOVER—Five New Hampshire supporters of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza were arrested late Friday afternoon when they refused to leave Representative Chris Pappas’ Dover office, where they had been sitting quietly for about three hours.  It followed by two days another demonstration there led by members of Veterans for Peace, who have been walking through the New Hampshire Seacoast on an anti-war pilgrimage to Washington, DC.

Amy Antonucci, a Madbury resident who chairs the board of NH Peace Action, said it was the tenth or eleventh time since November that members of peace groups had visited Pappas’ office with demands for a ceasefire.  This was the first time they refused to leave. 

In addition to Antonucci, others arrested were Em Friedrichs of Durham, the Rev. David Grishaw-Jones of Portsmouth, Janet Zeller of Concord, and Janet Simmon of Laconia.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with Mother’s Day, which organizers reminded participants was inspired by Julia Ward Howe, who in 1870 called for an annual observance to uphold the need for peace and to honor mothers who had lost husbands and children to war.

Friday’s action began with a program on the sidewalk outside the office featuring short statements by the five people who would shortly afterwards go inside.  The program also included songs, prayer, and a reading of Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation.

“Fourteen thousand Palestinian children have died, 19,000 of them orphaned, dozens of Israeli children have died and Israeli and Palestinian children are going to continue to die into the future if these actions continue,” said Friedrichs, a member of the Durham Town Council, addressing a group of about 35 people on both sides of the Central Street sidewalk.  Visibly pregnant and with a voice breaking up with emotion, Friedrichs said the ongoing war “is just breeding more violence, and more death. And we have to do this for the Israeli children, Palestinian children, our own children, to show them what the world should be, and to show them that we are fighting for them. And we’re working to make this world what they deserve.”

Prior to entering the office at about 3 PM, Zeller said, “We are not pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, we are pro human rights.  We are pro-democracy, and we are anti-war crimes. It’s time that we take a more visible action. We’ve tried everything else.”

Inside, the group of five delivered a written statement calling for a ceasefire, distribution of humanitarian aid, and an end to U.S. military assistance to Israel “until Palestinians’ and Israelis’ equal human rights are upheld and ongoing abuses ended, as required by International and US laws.”  Waiting for a response, they sat themselves down in a small waiting area outside a glassed-in office, where no staff people could be seen.  There, they quietly conversed about their concerns, goals, and hopes until they were asked to leave shortly after 5 PM. 

Nine members of Veterans for Peace had stopped by the same space on Wednesday, also to deliver a message to the Congressman about the need for the U.S. to withdraw support from the ongoing assault in Gaza.  In contrast to the cold reception two days later, this group had a cordial interaction with Gage Wheeler, a member of the Congressman’s staff.   With no meeting rooms available, the 8 men squeezed into the hallway for a short discussion.

“I’d love to call on Congressman Pappas to support a ceasefire vocally, to stop funding continued arms transfers, especially with the assault on Rafah right now, and the humanitarian crisis deepening,” said Will Hopkins, a Belmont resident who just this past week took a position as the executive director of Veterans for Peace, a national organization with 12,000 members.  Stating his belief that military veterans are “uniquely qualified” to speak about the impact of war but that he was unable to convey the Congressman’s views, Wheeler listened attentively.

Saying he has Palestinian and Israeli friends, Hopkins, who served in Iraq with the National Guard, explained he can’t get over the images of children in the region.  “Pictures and pictures and pictures of children without limits, children buried in rubble, dead, children shot, children starving, and it’s got to stop.  My tax dollars should not be going towards that slaughter,” he said.  “It’s going to take people standing up and saying that this can’t go on anymore.”

Tarak Kauff, an upstate New York resident who has been organizing the Veterans Peacewalk for months, told Wheeler he is Jewish and has traveled to Israel and Palestine.  “There is no, zero, excuse for what the Israelis are doing,” he said, shaking his finger in Wheeler’s direction inside the crowded hallway.   Even in the wake of the October 7 attacks, Kauff said, what Israel is doing cannot be justified as self-defense.  “This is genocide. This is a war crime of the worst order. There is nothing worse than this,” he said.

Kauff said he had the idea for the walk about a year ago but that after the October 7 attacks and Israel’s response the situation in Gaza rose to the top of his agenda. 

The Veterans for Peace group launched their walk from Ogunquit on Tuesday and made their first stop in Portsmouth that evening.  They held programs at the Dover Friends Meeting and Community Church of Durham on Wednesday, and on Thursday continued their walk as far as Hampton.  Friday, they walked from Hampton to Salisbury and held an evening gathering at the Exeter Unitarian Universalist Church.  They plan to reach Washington DC on July 5.

Sitting inside her Congressman’s small waiting room on Friday, Janet Simmon said, “We know that peace is the only answer.  Killing people only makes more violence. Violence hurts both sides. Peaceful solutions are the only way for people to have lives without violence.” 

Maggie McSherry, an aide to Rep. Pappas, opened the door from the inner office to the hallway at about 4:25 PM and read a short statement from her cellphone.  “We’d like to thank you for sharing the letter,” she said, before leaving some comment forms on the floor for the group to complete.  “We will collect them before the office closes at 5,” she said and withdrew back inside the locked doorway.    

On the form, Rev. Grishaw-Jones once again stated the group’s call for a ceasefire, while Friedrichs left voicemails for the staff.  Shortly after 5 PM, Patrick Carroll of the Congressman’s staff came out into the hallway and asked the group to leave.  Rev. Grishaw-Jones repeated their plea for the Congressman to heed their concerns.  “In no disrespect to the important work that you all do and the ways that you do it, but we just feel like we have to make that case in a different way,” he said.

“Can you do it outside so I can close?” Carroll asked.  The answer was no.  He tried again a few minutes later and said the police would be called. 

Four members of the Dover Police arrived at 5:45. When the 5 peace activists still refused to leave, the officers escorted them to the sidewalk and handed each of them a summons to appear in court on charges of criminal trespass.

It was a marked contrast to the rough treatment police gave to campus protesters in Durham and Hanover the week before. 

Prior to the office occupation, Rev. Grishaw-Jones, who serves as pastor at the Community Church of Durham, said, “We’ve been urging Congressman Pappas and all of Congress to change their ways to call for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the carnage in Gaza, which is devastating to so many on all sides, and to discontinue American funding for American weaponry that’s being used in that destruction and annihilation of the Palestinian people in Gaza. So, to this point, over six months, Congressman Pappas refused to really listen to engage or to change his mind or his voting pattern.”

“Every human being has the capacity to change their mind. And we’re hoping that he’ll do just that,” Rev. Grishaw-Jones added.

On the Central Street sidewalk after accepting his summons to appear in court, Grishaw-Jones said, “We need to build a movement to end militarism, to end violence as a way of solving the world’s problems. And this is a small but significant step on that larger journey.”

Starr Gilmartin, one of the Peacewalk participants who joined the vigil outside Pappas’ office on Wednesday, recalled how her father shifted from being a John Birch Society member to an anti-war activist.  Considering members of Congress like Rep. Pappas, she wondered, “What could change their hearts?  Because there is something.”

CORRECTION: Em Friedrichs was misquoted in the original version of this story about the number of Palestinian children who have died and been orphaned. This version correctly quotes her.

Editor’s note: takes no position on politics or candidates, but welcomes diverse opinions at

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