Victoria Sullivan Photographed with Armed Men on Day of Black Lives Matter Vigil
Assault Rifle Bearing Men May Have Been “Protecting” Businesses on South Willow Street — OPINION
MANCHESTER, NH — Victoria Sullivan was photographed with men armed with assault weapons during the day of the Black Lives Matter candlelight vigil held in Stark Park on June 2, 2020. The vigil that attracted 700 people to bear witness to the cause of racial justice was peaceful, but a small group of people who attended the event eventually caused disturbances on Elm and South Willow Streets.
There had been fears of mob violence in the days leading up to the vigil. Sullivan’s close political ally Joe Kelly Levasseur played his usual role of provocateur, heightening an already tense atmosphere.
In the photo, Victoria Sullivan is standing next to a man dressed in camouflage-patterned military style “fatigue” pants, who is holding a AR-15. Other men in the photograph sport military style camouflage clothing.
Six assault weapons are visible.
The location is 932 South Willow Street, at the edge of the parking lot in front of Mattress Firm. Chipolte’s Mexican Grill can be seen in the background. Twilight seems to be approaching.
Sunset was at 8:19pm on June 2nd. The protesters did not reach Chipolte’s until 11:47pm, according to a Manchester Police Department’s tweet.
It seems to this reporter that Sullivan was standing with a group that was being photographed. From the angle of her face, which doesn’t look directly at the camera, she may have not realized she was being photographed.
Her face is beaming at the armed men.
Reportedly, Victoria Sullivan — who styles herself “Mayor of Manchester” on her campaign signs — had called for a “curfew” at 8pm for the day of BLM Manchester’s planned vigil on her Facebook page. There’s no evidence of that now, as posts made on Sullivan’s Facebook page between November 2019, when she first was defeated by Joyce Craig in a landslide loss, and November 2020 have been deleted.
Victoria Sullivan has wiped the slate clean, apparently. Sources say that Sullivan denied she was with armed men that day, when asked if that was so by a Queen City politician.
Since Governor Chris Sununu positions himself as a moderate on race issues, Sullivan may have been advised to consign the bulk of her 2020 posts to an Orwellian “memory hole” to come across as more moderate, less radical.
Sununu endorsed Sullivan for mayor last week.
In the days preceding the vigil, social media posts by some racial justice advocates had discussed staging an after-event protest that would march down Elm Street and onto South Willow Street.
South Willow Street is a “miracle mile” studded with businesses, large, medium and small. Within easy walking distance of the South Willow Street miracle mile are big box stores, the kind that attracted the wrath of protesters in other cities, and had been burned to the ground.
The social media buzz became incendiary when an out-of-towner — Daniel Zeron of Ashland, New Hampshire — posted a call for violent action on Facebook. The poster was arrested and the Facebook post taken down.
Alderman at Large Joe Kelly Levasseur was criticized for keeping the call for violence current by posting the original provocation on his Facebook page and for playing his usual role of populist reactionary demagogue.
In his posts, Levasseur expressed his concerned that a riot was imminent.
Levasseur’s online demagoguery was joined by Ward 8 Alderman Mike Porter, who called for using a plow truck to deal with the situation om a reply to one of Levasseur’s Facebook posts. This suggested to many that Porter was advocating that the city or civilians who owned trucks with plows engage in violence against the protesters, though Porter denied it.
A government employee, a distraught Porter allegedly called Alderman at Large Daniel P. O’Neil for help to save his job. He allegedly was in tears.
Levasseur’s and Porter’s behavior was deemed racist by many. That and the revelation that Levasseur had called an African American BLM activist a “zipperhead” led to Mayor Joyce Craig and seven of the other 12 aldermen demand for their resignation, on June 5th.
Ironically, the law office of Joe Kelly Levasseur, Esq., is located at 396 South Willow Street, which is on the route of the proposed after-event march that circulated on social media. It was unmolested on the night of June 2nd.
Peaceful Vigil Followed by Riot
Held to memorialize George Floyd and to voice demands for racial and social justice, the June 2nd BLM candlelight vigil in Stark Park happened three days after another peaceful protest march for racial justice in Manchester, on May 30th. Kicking off at Veterans Park, that protest attracted 1,000 people.
Some of that day’s protesters staged a peaceful sit-in at the Manchester Police Headquarters. Their protest was marred when a white man driving a truck flying a Donald Trump flag accosted the protesters, and aimed a firearm at them. The man and his son were arrested by police.
The specter of violence was real, though a more likely source of it was the reactionary white Trump supporters and assorted rambunctious yahoos that are the core of Joe Kelly Levasseur’s power base. Levasseur claimed that there was no race problem in America during the week of the justice rallies, despite a Trump supporter threatening People of Color with a gun.
Because of the threat of violence, Queen City police in riot gear and the National Guard were out in force on June 2nd. Fifteen people wound up arrested on disorderly conduct and rioting charges, thirteen the night of the disturbances and two soon after.
On June 2, 2020 Manchester Police closely monitored events in the city spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. An organized event at Stark Park was peaceful, but as the night went on other groups started to become unruly.
At 8pm at Stark Park, a candlelight vigil organized by Black Lives Matter brought in about 700 people. The event lasted just over an hour, and remained peaceful throughout. There was no criminal behavior or arrests made at that location. Afterwards a small group of approximately 50 marched down Elm St, becoming disruptive. The group eventually met up with others gathering on South Willow Street. At one point a juvenile on a bicycle kicked a police cruiser, spit on it, and started shouting profanities. He was arrested.
Armed white men, including Hawaiian shirted “Boogaloo Bois” had taken positions on South Willow Street in anticipation of a potentially violent riot taking place after the BLM vigil at Stark Par, in order to capitalize on it.
The stated motives of some of the armed men was to protect the property of businesses on South Willow Street, apparently with deadly force if necessary.
A pseudonymous Boogaloo Boi said that their aims were property protection and protecting protesters. The Boogaloo movement has been described as anarcho-libertarian, with members interested in sparking a violent rebellion to destroy the United States.
None of the armed men and others (all men) in the Victoria Sullivan photograph appear to be Boogaloo Bois. No news sources quotes Sullivan or any of the people she is with about their motives for being there.
Manchester Police Chief Carl Capano said that his force was surrounded 360 degrees by men bearing firearms. Their presence did nothing to defuse the tension, but heightened it.
This was the element Victoria Sullivan chose to ally herself with. The question is why?
Liberty Republicans or Militia Movement Radicals?
Victoria Sullivan is holding a cellphone in the June 2nd photo. All of the men who she is with seem to be white. Four of them are dressed in military style jackets.
All the assault weapons seem to be versions of the AR-15, the civilian version of the military’s M16/M4 assault rifle.
The uniformity of weapons and military garb suggests to this reporter that they may be members of an anti-government paramilitary “militia” group.
In a Concord Monitor op-ed piece, Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins criticized Governor Chris Sununu for encouraging the militia movement in New Hampshire. She pointed to his endorsement of former Free State Project president (and FSP Board of Directors member) Carla Gericke for State Senate,
Gericke is the president of the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, a secessionist group.
The South African-born Gericke, who won an immigration visa to the United States via lottery, seeks to show her gratitude to America by making the Granite State an independent country. She apparently is a close ally of Victoria Sullivan, and was at her side during the mayoral recount.
According to Hawkins, Gericke has attended anti-mask protests staged by ReOpen. Hawkins writes Gericke was “pictured at ReOpen events alongside the armed militia Sununu failed to condemn.”
Perhaps the reason that Victoria Sullivan hobnobbed with armed men, literally beaming with delight at the sight of would-be-vigilantes playing “militia” is because they are her supporters, and she supports them.