NEW BRUNSWICK — Over the shouts of protesters who gathered here today to explicitly condemn him for it, Gov. Chris Christie defended his decision to send a team of state troopers to the riot-torn city of Baltimore, suggesting it’s the same support other states showed New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“Listen, I sent troopers to Baltimore for the same reason that states around the country sent troopers here and other officials when we had Hurricane Sandy,” Christie said outside a treatment center during his first open-ended press conference in months. “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.”
Christie was here this afternoon to sign a set of bills aimed at preventing opiate abuse, but he quickly became the target of local students and community activists who showed up to excoriate the Republican over his order to send 150 troops south, a decision he announced yesterday on Twitter after speaking to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Police in Baltimore have strained resources and manpower in trying to quell the rioting and protests that have exploded across the city after a funeral for Freddy Grey, the 25-year-old African American man who died mysteriously in police custody earlier this year, was held Monday morning.
The riots have at times turned violent, resulting in several injured police officers, dozens of arrests, looted store fronts and considerable property damage.
Holding signs with the words “Withdraw the State Police from Baltimore” scrawled in black marker across them, protesters here asked why Christie decided to send law enforcement to Maryland when, in their words, there are “communities that need attention here.” Their shouts and chants of “Black Lives Matter”, together with the sound of trains passing on a track nearby the center, periodically drowned out Christie’s voice as he talked about the bills and fielded questions from reporters.
Also present was Acting Attorney General John Hoffman, who yesterday called the decision an “opportunity” to showcase the state police’s “class” and integrity.
Christie said the troopers are currently on a 72 hour detail. Asked when he plans to bring them home, he said his office will “talk and work with our partners in Maryland on whether there needs to be an extension of that, or whether they need to come home at the end of the 72 hours.”
“72 hours is too long,” the protesters shouted.