A freshman state representative from Winchester is standing behind Troy Police Chief David Ellis, who has drawn calls that he be fired after attending the Jan. 6 rally for President Donald Trump that preceded the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Rhodes, whose district includes Troy and several other area communities, said in a news release Wednesday that she takes issue with the treatment both Ellis and the town have received since. She emphasized that Ellis did not participate in the insurrection — which left at least five people dead — and was simply expressing his "American Values."
"The hateful rhetoric and bullying being implemented onto him, his family, and anyone who supports him for his attendance at a rally is despicable and vengeful," Rhodes, who was recently elected vice-chair of the Cheshire County Republican Committee, said in the release. "Chief Ellis was not involved with the people that broke the law and should not be held responsible for the actions of others."
Ellis was quoted in a New York Magazine online publication about the violence that unfolded at the rally. In an interview that day, he indicated he had gone to the protest to support the president but said he was troubled by what he saw, particularly the treatment of law enforcement officers. But the article also indicated Ellis didn't second guess his decision to attend.
“There’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people,” Ellis is quoted as saying. “Like me.”
The chief did not respond to multiple requests from The Sentinel for comment last week.
Among those coming to Ellis' defense are New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Chris Ager. "Ellis is a good man who was lawfully exercising his first amendment right to protest peacefully," he said in a news release he issued Tuesday night.
And while condemning the violence at the Capitol, Troy selectboard Chairman Richard H. "Dick" Thackston III defended Ellis' right to participate in the rally and said he does not see the board, which is responsible for appointing police chiefs, taking any action against Ellis.
However, last Thursday he said the town had received dozens of messages from people, mostly outside of Troy, demanding that Ellis resign or be fired.
And over the weekend, Thackston said Troy town hall would be open by appointment only until further notice after officials reported they had received several expletive-laden emails and voicemails, some of which contained threats of “general violence."
The day after last week's rally, N.H. Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley called on Ellis to resign.
“The ransacking of our nation’s Capitol and the assaults on Capitol Police and other members of law enforcement yesterday by a mob incited by the President and his allies marked a dark day in the history of our nation," Buckley said in the prepared statement. "For a police chief to attend a rally that led to such destruction and violence and express no regret is simply unimaginable.”
Among area residents who also say Ellis should step down is Keene City Councilor Robert Williams. In a letter to The Sentinel, Williams took aim at Ellis for supporting "a hate-fueled insurrection."
"Chief Ellis should be ashamed of himself for marching to overturn the results of a free and fair election," Williams wrote, saying Ellis should resign unless he can renounce "election theft" and the "hateful ideas" that led to last week's riot. "It’s a despicable thing to do."