New Jersey Authorities Step Up Enforcement at Statehouse After GOP Defies Vaccine Rule

The New Jersey Statehouse now has extra security outside after chaos erupted last week among Republican lawmakers, the Associated Press reported.

New Jersey State Police troopers have been placed at all entrances around the statehouse complex. All visitors must be redirected to a single entrance so they can show proof of vaccination and go through a temperature check.

This increase in security is in response to an incident on December 2 regarding Republican lawmakers who refused to comply with the statehouse's mandate. A stand-off occurred between state troopers and legislators who defied a new mandate that blocked those who could not provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test.

"You have no right to stop us," Republican Assemblyman Erik Peterson told troopers as they were denied entry into the Assembly. "You see this? You see this, folks? Denying us entry into our house."

At the time, state troopers did not provide any explanation for the blocking of legislators. Some lawmakers compared the incident to that of a dictatorship, with Assemblyman Hal Wirths at one point yelling "this is America!"

In total, 28 members of the Assembly were involved, eventually gaining entry. An email was sent to the state police demanding an explanation. The incident was called "a colossal failure of security" by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, a Democrat.

"Twenty-eight members of the minority caucus could not be bothered to exhibit common decency and humanity all because they would rather have a couple of minutes on TV news," he added.

Due to the incident, Assembly meetings have been switched back to remote. Senate hearings will still be held in person.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

NJ Statehouse Mandate
A day after Assembly Republicans defied a mandate to show COVID-19 vaccination proof or a negative test, signs stood around entryways and outside committee rooms at the statehouse showing the mandate remained policy on December 3, 2021, in New York. The New Jersey statehouse requirement for visitors to show proof of COVID-19 or a negative test is still in effect after Republican lawmakers defied it ahead of a voting sessions on December 2. AP Photo/Mike Catalini

Troopers even stood guard at little-used doorways where there typically is no state police presence.

State police declined to comment on security measures, according to an emailed statement over the weekend from Trooper Charles Marchan. The statement came in response to questions about why police permitted some legislators onto the Assembly floor Thursday despite not showing the required vaccination proof of negative test.

The mandate remains in effect even as Senate and Assembly Republicans have gone to court to try to stop it. An appellate division judge last week permitted the GOP motion to advance, but without ruling on the merits. She set a possible hearing date of December 13 in the case.