LIVINGSTON – A crowd of nearly a thousand gathered outside Livingston High School Tuesday afternoon to protest Governor Christie’s long-awaited announcement that he would seek the Republican nomination for president next year.
Clad mostly in red and bearing signs with an assortment of anti-Christie slogans, the boisterous group chanted “Enough is enough!” and “Resign now!” Accompanied by a mandolin player and a bagpiper, they also occasionally broke into song — including one, which they sang to the tune of one of Bruce Springsteen’s biggest hits, proclaimed that the governor was “Wrong for the USA.”
More than a thousand demonstrators – mostly dressed in red and carrying banners and signs – congregated on the front lawn outside Livingston High School Tuesday morning to protest Governor Christie announcing his presidential bid. The protesters represented various groups Christie has alienated since entering the governor’s office in 2010 – teachers and union workers upset at his pension-cutting, anti-union stances; environmental groups who have taken exception to his gubernatorial policies; and victims of Superstorm Sandy who remain homeless nearly three years after the devastating storm.
Joe Karcz traveled more than an hour from Beach Haven West to the rally, and entered the site on a red, white and blue bus with the words “Bus For Progress” emblazoned on its side. It was crucial for him to attend, he said, because he is still without a permanent home more than 2½ years after Sandy flooded his home with more than three feet of water.
Karcz, a retired union construction worker originally from Ridgefield Park, said he has moved 13 times since the storm and is still living in a rental unit while his house is being rebuilt; most of the funds he said he applied for and was promised took too long to get to him. He’s put forth tens of thousands of dollars of his own money, depleting his teenage sons’ college funds.
“I’m tired of being taken advantage of,” Karcz said.
The majority of protesters parked at the nearby Livingston Mall and were bused to the high school. Some complained that they weren’t allowed closer to the building, but rather were corralled behind temporary barriers near the baseball diamond.
“He doesn’t want this on news cameras, no,” said John Cannizzaro, a retired teacher from Lodi.
Tom Beatini and his wife, Dina Scacchetti, of Hillsdale are retired teachers with a combined 67 years in the pension fund. But while they are concerned about their retirement, they said the bigger issue is the governor’s stances on public education — promoting charter schools, slashing school funding, and the installation of a 2 percent cap on budget increases and a salary cap for superintendents.
“We’re all going to be paying for it for years to come,” Beatini said.
Teresa Mola, a Paterson public school teacher for more than 27 years, worried about her future because of Christie’s pension funding cuts. She gave up being a stay-at-home mother to her two children so she could have the security of a pension when she retired.
“My future is devastated because I won’t have the pension,” said Mola, who lives in Oak Ridge but is originally from Elmwood Park.
She said it was unfair that Christie promised public workers pension contributions in 2010 if they also contributed more to fund their future pensions.
“We did our end of the bargain and he has not,” she said.