TRENTON – Chris Shelton was blunt in expressing his feelings about Gov. Chris Christie, or as he called him, Adolf Christie, at the large public labor rally outside the Statehouse today.
The vice president of CWA’s District 1, who addressed the crowd with “Welcome to Nazi Germany,” said Christie is trying to do the same thing Hitler and the Nazis did: dismantle the unions.
“That’s what Christie and his two generals are trying to do,” he said referring to Sen. President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, whose agreement on pension and benefits reform sparked today’s rally that has caused gridlock on State Street.
However, Sen. Ray Lesniak took umbrage, walking up to the podium in his shirtsleeves, telling the protesters to tone it down.
“We cannot be associated with that comment,” he said.
Emotions ran high as the thousands gathered outside the Statehouse.
A N.J. Education Association official called on public workers to camp out at Stacey Park starting Friday.
Several Democratic legislators, like Reed Gusicora, Wayne DeAngelo and Patrick Diegnan took the podium to address the crowd.
Gusicora said the rally shows the difference between “sheep and lions,” saying the sheep are in the Statehouse.
“When he gets to ride in a state helicopter… that is not shared sacrifice,” Gusciora said in reference to the governor’s much-publicized chopper flight to attend his son’s baseball game.
“This is about the rights of workers to organize. We cannot allow this to happen,” said Diegnan.
NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said, “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
She said they are tired of policies that make the rich richer and keep the middle class down.
“It is unfair for them to reach into our wallets and millionaires keep their tax breaks,” she said.
She said she is most angry at legislators who “sell their votes to the powerful.”
She promised, “we will remember,” saying they cannot buy their votes back in November.
“We will work for justice, we will work for respect,” she said.
“We will never stop fighting.”
And Assemblyman Joe Cryan told the people: “This is about the future of labor. This is about workers rights. Let’s get the governor to the table and get it done.”
Assemblyman Tom Giblin added to the crowds: “Are you going to fight? Are you going to show up in Trenton? This is the fight of your life.”
He said if you let someone “kick you in the ass, you deserve it,” unless you take action.
“You fight back. You throw the punch that needs to be thrown.”
The boisterous rally was marked by loud messages and whistles. Many turned around to face those who were watching from inside the Statehouse and Annex.
Protesters gathered yelled out that Sen. Presidenet Steve Sweeney needs to “stop being a weenie.”
PBA vice president Keith Dunn said “the double dipper from Essex County and power broker down south have a lot more power than we do.”
“It’s a tax on the middle class. It’s a tax on workers,” he said about the benefits reform plan.
It wasn’t long before they started chanting, “Kill the bill!” “Kill the bill!”