Hundreds of protesters rally outside Christie announcement
LIVINGSTON, N.J. (AP) — The good vibes and enthusiasm that accompanied Gov. Chris Christie's announcement that he's running for president Tuesday didn't extend outside Livingston High School, where between hundreds of protesters gathered to take him to task on a number of fronts.
The usual suspects were represented: teachers and public workers who have clashed with Christie over pension payments, environmental advocates, union members and those who have been rubbed the wrong way by Christie's often-blunt putdowns.
As Christie made his announcement inside his old high school, critics chanted, sang and marched behind a bagpiper and gathered in front of a huge, blow-up camel whose symbolism wasn't entirely clear.
Some of the highlights:
SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN
The signs ran from the humorous to the caustic to the unprintable. Borrowing from New Jersey's mob history, one read "Christie for President: Fuhgeddaboudit." Many featured the word "LIAR" prominently. Another read "Indict. Impeach. Imprison."
One bore Christie's face superimposed on President Obama's iconic "Hope" poster changed to "Nope."
'SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP'
Eight months ago Jim Keady was a guy frustrated with the pace of rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy. After a heated exchange at a news conference in which Christie told him to "sit down and shut up," he became a minor media star and now is a candidate for state Assembly. He had harsh words for the newly-minted candidate.
"It's not personal, it's about performance," he insisted. "Our infrastructure's crumbling; with Sandy, the pensions, every metric you look at, he's a failure."
PENSIONS, PENSIONS, PENSIONS
Many protesters held signs excoriating Christie for the battle over pension payments for teachers and other public workers. Christie has refused to budget the full pension fund payment laid out in a four-year-old agreement with the unions.
"It's promises not kept," said Laura Skowronski, a retired teacher from Sussex County. "He's defying his own reform law from 2011.
"I don't think he'll support workers at all," she continued. "The middle class is getting weaker and weaker and the people at the top don't seem to care."
Ringwood resident Mitch Kahn of New Jersey Citizen Action, a watchdog group, was hard to miss in a rubber Richard Nixon as he spoke about, of all things, integrity.
"It's not that he's not qualified, but he's shown he has no integrity whatsoever," Kahn said of Christie. "He made a deal with public employees and now he doesn't want to meet his obligations. He's grandstanding the public pensions issue and turning the public against public employees."
Diane Beeny of Westfield held a sign cataloguing Christie's perceived sins, among them the $225 million deal his administration made with ExxonMobil in a case in which the state had initially sought $8.9 billion.
"The deal he made with Exxon, his refusal to ban fracking, his refusal to protect our health," she said. "He's an environmental and economic disaster."
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