Troopers bar GOP lawmakers from entering N.J. Statehouse over vaccine policy

GOP Assembly members filed a lawsuit seeking to have the policy blocked

By: and - December 20, 2021 1:00 pm

A group of protesters gathered outside the Statehouse in Trenton on Dec. 20 to rally against requiring a vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the building. (Sophie Nieto-Muñoz | New Jersey Monitor)

A handful of Republican Assembly members who attempted to enter the Statehouse without showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test were barred from entry Monday by New Jersey State Police troopers.

Some members of the group — who were successful earlier this month in entering the building without complying with the policy — later spoke to a crowd of about 100 anti-vaccine protesters who gathered outside the Statehouse to rally against the mandate.

“First it’s us, then it’s you. We’re going to stand strong, stand together, and we’re going to fight this thing,” said Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso.

Besides DiMaso, the group of Republican lawmakers barred from entering the Statehouse Monday morning included Brian Bergen, Erik Peterson, Jay Webber, Bob Auth, and Gerard Scharfenberger.

Several of them filed a suit in state Superior Court in Mercer County Monday to block the Statehouse rules, imposed separately by Democratic legislative leaders and the State Capitol Joint Management Commission. A judge declined their request for a temporary injunction.

“Under the constitution, we are provided the opportunity to take our seats to vote, unless we are suspected of treason or high misdemeanor,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “We asked, and we were not suspected of either of those things, so we should not be denied access to the Statehouse. That’s the argument.”

Bergen (R-Morris) said he would vote remotely if no temporary restraints were issued before the 1 p.m. start of the Assembly’s voting session. A number of other Republican legislators planned to vote remotely without first protesting the policy, and some intended to comply.

The group of anti-vaccine activists decried the restrictions, comparing them to limits imposed by Nazi Germany. They held signs that read “My body, my choice” and “the final variant is communism.”

Incoming state Sen. Ed Durr said he vowed to not comply with the mandate.  The Gloucester County Republican defeated Senate President Steve Sweeney last month in a move that stunned political observers and led to fears among some Democrats about their standing with voters.

“You understand that this is absolute, pardon my French, BS,” Durr told the cheering crowd. “I didn’t know we had to prove we’re healthy human beings. I thought your health was your choice. Remember my body my choice?”

The Nazi Germany comparison was echoed by at least one lawmaker.

“We tried to get in. They barred us from getting in. They wouldn’t allow us to get entrance unless we produced our papers,” said Auth (R-Bergen). “You know, you have to have your papers to do anything. It’s kind of borderline some bad times in the ’40s, 1940s.”


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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.

Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.