In the midst of a fight over the meaning of the Black Lives Matter Movement, with Gov. Chris Christie repeatedly issuing punishing comments about what he sees as President Barack Obama’s lack of leadership, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) today jumped into the fray.
“I agree with our President and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and I am proud to stand with them today,” said Sweeney, hours before the president’s scheduled appearance in Newark, where the senate president will be in attendance.
“I am disappointed that the Governor has once again chosen to divide rather than unite, by embracing the ugly rhetoric of the far-right of his party,” Sweeney added.
Among New Jersey elected officials, Watson Coleman last week issued the most condemning critique of Christie’s Sunday remarks on CBS’ Face the Nation that Black Lives Matter has “chanted in the streets for the murder of police officers,” and should not be “justified.”
Christie has repeatedly criticized Obama for what he sees as the President’s support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and fr what Christie sees as a leader who’s soft-on-crime.
“It is disgraceful that the President has lost his moral authority,” Christie said this morning on Fox and Friends.
Sweeney completely parted company from the Republican governor.
In a statement released this afternoon, the senate president praised Obama’s initiatives to reform the criminal justice system and Senator Cory Booker and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka for their leadership on the issue.
“I want to welcome President Obama to New Jersey and am honored to join the President in Newark to support his initiatives to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective by promoting rehabilitation and the successful reintegration into society of former offenders. I also want to praise Senator Booker and Mayor Baraka for their leadership on this important issue at the national and state levels.
“We have pursued the same goals in the Legislature and have succeeded in making significant improvements to help break the cycle of crime, poverty and incarceration that has trapped too many people, damaged too many communities and inflicted too high a cost.
“We worked together on a bipartisan basis to enact bail reform so that poor aren’t kept in jail just because they don’t have the ability to pay and that those who are a violent threat to their communities can be held. We also acted to Ban the Box so that former offenders are given a fair chance at employment. We transformed the juvenile justice system so that young people are provided with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and avoid lives of crime. And we advanced legislation to create a pilot program for vocational in the state’s prisons so that inmates are allowed to get job-training skills that will help them be productive, law-abiding citizens.
“We have advocated for a system that emphasizes rehabilitation and recovery instead of imprisonment for drug addicts and we are supporting programs that promote re-entry so that former offenders are better prepared to avoid a return to criminal behavior. Everyone deserves a second chance and when they succeed it is better for them, their families, their communities and for all of us.
“We will continue to look for ways to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective.”