ATLANTA—Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate in the 2024 primaries, called for a federal RICO prosecution of Antifa rioters who have violently attacked the construction of a police training facility in Atlanta.
“We need to be more aggressive about this,” Christie, who also served as the U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, said at The Gathering, an event at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead organized by radio host Erick Erickson.
Erickson asked Christie about the “Stop Cop City” protests that have involved violent attacks on people and property in the Atlanta area in the attempt to block construction of a police training facility. After the city council approved the training facility in Sept. 2021, protesters have voiced their opposition, and violent agitators began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at construction equipment in May 2022. After a March 2023 riot, police arrested 35 people, charging 23 of them with domestic terrorism. An attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center was among those charged.
As of May 31, more than 40 people have been charged with domestic terrorism in relation to the “Stop Cop City” riots. Erickson said that of the 50 or so people who have been arrested, only two were from Georgia.
“Somebody has got to be paying the living expenses of these kids from New Jersey and New York and Washington state [who] have come down,” Erickson said. “Of the 50 people who were arrested, two were from Georgia.”
“The U.S. attorney in Atlanta should be all over this,” Christie responded. “This is multi-jurisdictional in terms of the people who are perpetrating these acts. This is what the federal prosecuting system is made to deal with.”
“RICO seems particularly appropriate in that circumstance, given that you obviously have some organization here, racketeering, and is corrupt,” the former governor added.
Christie pledged that, if he wins the 2024 presidential election, he will appoint at attorney general who will apply the law “without fear, without favor, and without partisanship.” He laid out his philosophy as governor, which he would apply as president: “I appointed an attorney general and I got out of her way.”
He also touted his record in restructuring the police force in Camden, N.J., in 2012.
“When I became governor, it was the most dangerous city in America, [with] the highest murder rate in the country,” Christie recalled. “I went to the police unions and tried to negotiate more police on the street, less behind desks… and the unions told me, ‘Go away.’”
So, I went to my chief counsel and said, “We should fire all of them.”
He said, “What are you talking about, governor?”
I said, “Fire the entire police department.”
He said, “On what basis?”
I said, “They suck.”
Christie recalled going to the county government, controlled by Democrats, offering to fire the police and pay for it while asking them to create a new county police department. “They looked at me and said, ‘Governor, if you have the guts to do that, we’re with you.’”
“We fired them, the entire 320 members, all of them,” the former governor said. “We established a new police department. For the same amount of money, Erick, that we were spending on the 320, we got 450 new police officers. We trained them in community policing and violence deescalation. And now, 11 years later, the murder rate in Camden is down 75%.”
He noted that amid the nationwide George Floyd riots in 2020, “there were no riots, there was no violence” in Camden, which is “95% black and brown.”
Christie emphasized the rising crime rate in cities across the country as a reason for Republicans to support his candidacy in the 2024 primaries.
“I know how to run a prosecuting office, and I know how to pick people to run them, and when you have the violent crime we have in cities across this country right now, it is decaying those great cities,” he warned. “If these, you know, liberal prosecutors in these cities are unwilling to prosecute these crimes, which they are, I will put an attorney general, and my first instruction to him or her will be, ‘The federal government will prosecute those violent crimes in those cities until the cities wake up and do it themselves.’”
Christie emphasized four issues: universal school choice, cutting government spending without increasing taxes, prosecuting rampant crime, and an aggressive foreign policy defending friends and confronting enemies abroad.
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