Senate President Steve Sweeney was disappointed that New Jersey Working Families director Sue Altman was dragged out of a Senate hearing Monday but called Gov. Phil Murphy’s demand for an apology from the committee’s members “over the top.”
“I’m disappointed in the way it happened, but she had planned to be arrested, she even said that,” Sweeney said. “There was a text or a tweet where she said ‘it’s such a time and I’m not arrested yet.’”
At 10:22 a.m. Monday, close to an hour before state police dragged her from the Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies hearing, Altman tweeted “Not arrested!! (Yet).”
The activist, a staunch opponent of South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, was quoting a tweet from Rob Duffey, her organization’s communications director, that claimed Norcross supporters were calling for Altman’s arrest.
She said officers later issued her a citation for disorderly conduct.
Sweeney doesn’t blame committee members for the incident
Despite his distaste for how Altman was removed, Sweeney said he did not blame the committee’s members for the incident, which dominated coverage of Norcross’s testimony.
“Her own words were she was going to disrupt the testimony. That was her goal,” Sweeney said. “You’re acting like she didn’t intend to disrupt this thing. Some people go into these hearings wanting to be arrested to make statements.”
Altman told Star Ledger opinions editor Tom Moran that she intended to lead booing of Norcross — who dubiously claimed to not know who Altman was Tuesday — when he sat to testify before the committee.
Those jeers happened anyway, and officers led the protesters out of the committee room, though none were dragged that time around.
Murphy calls for committee members to apologize; Sweeney faults Murphy
Gov. Phil Murphy called for the committee’s members to apologize to Altman for how she was treated Monday, but Sweeney sought to lay the blame for how police removed Altman’s removal at the governor’s feet.
“It’s over the top. The governor is responsible for the state police and the attorney general. It’s his state police” Sweeney said. “If he thinks they went too far, he should get to the bottom of it. The senator did not order anyone drug out. He asked people to be removed if they were going to be not willing to let testimony go on.”
The senate president, a close Norcross ally, also pointed to a recent incident during which Murphy had environmental activists who sought to interrupt a speech removed.
So far, no Democratic legislators have publicly criticized the Altman incident’s handling, though some have expressed distaste for the same privately.
“She got the attention she wanted,” Sweeney said.