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AG: No More Photographing Town Hall Hecklers

Gov. Chris Christie is headed to a reliably Republican area for his latest town hall as State Police are ordered to stop photographing protesters and hecklers.

Governor Chris Christie holds his 114th Town Hall on Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding in South River
Governor Chris Christie holds his 114th Town Hall on Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding in South River (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

The governor will be in Hunterdon County on Thursday, where he’ll talk about state finances.

Christie’s last two town halls were disrupted by hecklers affiliated with groups that have opposed him.

At least a dozen people were thrown out of a town hall in South River on Tuesday after shouting criticisms at Christie. They complained about how his administration is distributing federal recovery money and questioned Christie’s role in a political payback scandal orchestrated by his aides.

The Record reports that New Jersey State Police have been ordered by acting Attorney General John Hoffman to stop taking pictures of protesters at the events.

In a statement to the Star-Ledger, Hoffman said that the role of State Police is to be “careful to guarantee that First Amendment rights are respected and the public — whether expressing positive or negative sentiments toward the governor and his policies — have ample opportunity to make their positions known.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey raised concerns about the policy in a statement posted on their website.

“It raises serious First Amendment concerns that the State Police may be photographing protesters at Gov. Christie’s town hall meetings,” wrote Udi Ofer, the ACLU of New Jersey’s executive director. “New Jerseyans must be able to express their viewpoints without having to fear police officers photographing them and creating political dossiers on them.”

Farmer also ordered all photos previously taken to be destroyed.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) issued a statement via email on Tuesday after a town hall in South River calling it a “Nixonian tactic” and “political intimidation.” Following Farmer’s statement, Weinberg told the Star-Ledger she was “delighted” at the reversal in policy.

Christie’s town halls have become less predictable since the scandal broke, but audiences remain mostly supportive.

MORE COVERAGE:

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

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