At St. John’s Soup Kitchen, Christie Talks Ferguson and a ‘Lack of Leadership’

By David Cruz

The lunchtime bells tolled outside St. John’s Church in downtown Newark on this snowy day before Thanksgiving. The soup kitchen here feeds 400 meals a day, five days a week, but today they had a few extra pairs of hands helping out. First Lady Mary Pat and Gov. Chris Christie were here to help distribute meals. And for the governor, it was an opportunity to make his voice heard on the situation in Ferguson and its impact on the nation.

“The country has anxiety over lots of things,” the governor said as he handed out boxed lunches to the homeless. “The only thing that clears up anxiety is leadership and direction. And I think the country needs more leadership and more direction and less division. On Thanksgiving, when everyone’s thinking about what they’re thankful for, hopefully they can also pray for some leadership in the country that’ll be strong to help bring people together. I’m suggesting lots of people have responsibility … not just the president. He’s just one of them.”

Night two after the grand jury decision in Ferguson was less violent, although there were still many instances of lawlessness — and more arrests. There were also demonstrations across the country, including Times Square and here in Newark, where around 200 people demonstrated without incident. The governor said he was satisfied that police here were doing their jobs and that demonstrators were, likewise, doing theirs.

“I think everybody has the right to express their views about something that government does or doesn’t do, but the key to me is that they have to be non-violent and everyone should be encouraging non-violent expression of protest. The violence and the destruction of property is just something that doesn’t change anything,” he said. “Where we’ve seen over time expressions of protest that have been non-violent helped to really raise people’s consciousness and I think that’s what we should be focusing on.”

As police officer Darren Wilson broke his silence on ABC, criticism continued to be focused on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and his decision to delay deploying the National Guard. Christie said he didn’t envy his colleague in Missouri.

“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “You know, I’m not there and this much I know for sure, you never know exactly what’s going on unless you’re on the ground and I certainly can’t tell from that kind of distance. I’ve always had a good relationship with Jay but I can’t make a judgment.”

The governor says he’s celebrating the holiday at his home in Mendham, feeding almost 30, mostly family, including his in-laws and children. Asked if this — the final Thanksgiving before his potentially life-changing decision — had a special significance, the governor said a big life change — like a run for the presidency — is just one of the things his family will be thinking about this holiday season.