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Is Picture Taking at Governor’s Town Hall Meetings an Intimidation Tactic?

Governor Chris Christie hosts a town hall in South River (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen
Governor Chris Christie hosts a town hall in South River (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

Up until a couple of months ago, Governor Christie seemed to have free reign at his regularly scheduled town hall meetings.

Crowds for the most part were friendly, polite – with the occasional outburst from someone in the audience who’d draw the Governor’s ire – and eventually wind up a virtual star on Youtube.

Lately, though, crowds have been testier. The Bridgegate scandal, while not being the central concern of those in attendance, has had some in the audience demanding answers.

And as you may have heard, a good many of those who’ve protested loudly have been escorted out by police.

And have had their picture taken.

That act has drawn the attention of one state legislator who’s labeled that an intimidation tactic straight out of the “Richard Nixon playbook!” (Quotes mine)

According to this from nj.com:

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) issued a statement in response to a PolitickerNJ report about a man who said he was a member of the State Police.

“Having undercover State police officers taking photos of people who are exercising their right of free expression at the Governor’s Town Hall meeting is a Nixonian tactic that has no place in New Jersey or anywhere else in this country ,” Weinberg said. “I can’t imagine what rationalization the Governor would have for allowing this to happen but it comes across as an act of political intimidation.”

Christie’s spokesman referred questions to the State Police who would not confirm or deny the report and had no response to Weinberg’s statement.

Regarding the picture taking at town hall meetings – from my own personal experience.

I recall the few times we’ve had rallies at the Statehouse – be it the Jersey Guys Stripper Rally, Flying Pigs Rally, or the Funeral for the Middle Class – state police were always in attendance – and yes, they were taking pictures.

And these weren’t press people either. We were told that they were state police.

Remember too that the rallies were all held under different administrations (Codey’s and Corzine’s).

So while it may seem to be a partisan tactic to intimidate the opposition; it’s used by both sides. And the purpose, while not being stated as “intimidation”, has more to do with security.

But then again we get into that murky area of who’s got the pictures and are they being kept for some nefarious purpose.

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