Christie, amid protests, defends decision to send NJ troopers to Baltimore
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Protesters angry over Gov. Chris Christie's decision to send state troopers to help contain the violence in Baltimore dominated the governor's first news conference in New Jersey in more than five months.
Christie defended the decision, saying he'd sent troopers to Baltimore for the same reason surrounding states had sent help to New Jersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
"When there's an emergency in another area in our region and folks reach out for help, we're going to reach out and give that help," he said.
He also dismissed the suggestion that his relationship with Hogan, whom he'd campaign for as chair of the Republican Governors Association, had influenced the action.
"I would have responded the same way whether it was Jack Markell in Delaware or Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania or Andrew Cuomo in New York," he said, referring to three Democratic governors. "It wouldn't have mattered."
The governor, who is considering a presidential run, visited a New Brunswick drug treatment center on Wednesday to sign a pair of bills aimed at helping to curb prescription drug abuse in the state.
But the event, held in the parking lot outside the facility, was often drowned out by a handful of protesters — gathered behind a locked gate and fence — who heckled and chanted for nearly half an hour as Christie signed the legislation and answered questions.
"Get the state troopers out of Baltimore!" they shouted as Christie spoke about the bills. "Send them to Camden and Newark!"
They later burst into chants of "Black lives matter," which has become a rallying cry following the high-profile deaths of a handful of black men at the hands of police in recent months.
Christie announced Tuesday he had deployed 150 state police personnel, including 100 state troopers, after rioting erupted in Baltimore following the death of a 25-year old man who'd suffered a fatal spine injury while in police custody. The decision came after Christie spoke with the state's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who had been scheduled to co-host a fundraiser on behalf of Christie's political action committee Friday. The event was canceled because of the violence.
Christie and the reporters asking him questions were also interrupted by trains passing through an overpass. And then there was the occasional music from a nearby ice cream truck.
But Christie, retaining his composure, did not engage.
Christie held his last formal press news conference in November — though he has held informal gaggles and taken questions during out-of-town trips and after updates on local emergencies since.
One of the bills Christie signed will require the Division of Consumer Affairs to maintain secure prescription medicine drop-off receptacles at law enforcement facilities where people can deposit unused medication.
The other authorizes the state Attorney General to coordinate statewide law enforcement efforts against opioid abuse though a task force.