State Police Ordered to Stop Photographing Public at Christie Town Halls

Critics said tactic violated civil liberties.

The Star-Ledger reports: “Amid mounting criticism that their tactics violated civil liberties, the state attorney general today ordered the State Police to stop taking pictures of protesters at Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall meetings — for any reason.”

In calling for a halt to the practice, Hoffman said: “The State Police is responsible for the safety and security of the governor and the public at town hall meetings. In doing so, the State Police are careful to guarantee that First Amendment rights are respected and the public — whether expressing positive or negative sentiments toward the governor and his policies — have ample opportunity to make their positions known.”

Floyd Abrams, an expert in First Amendment law, said in an interview that he was hard-pressed to find an acceptable reason for State Police to take pictures of people critical of the governor.

“This is not a situation where there appear to be concerns that terrorists or individuals are engaging in criminal conduct,” said Abrams, a partner at Cahill Gordon and Reindel in New York. “If that’s so, the only reason for photographing people is either to chill their speech in the future or otherwise seek to persuade them to stay away. These are not reasons consistent with the First Amendment.”

A spokesman for Christie said he had no knowledge his critics were being photographed.