Star-Ledger StaffFormer Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan was arrested yesterday during a small protest outside a school in Cape May County where Gov. Jon Corzine was pitching his plan to fix the state’s finances by increasing highway tolls.
Lonegan, an outspoken conservative best known for his unflinching stance against illegal immigration, was among some 10 toll opponents waving placards and distributing pamphlets outside Middle Township High School at 1:30 p.m. when they were confronted by local police.
Officers ordered the protesters to put down their signs, and Lonegan refused, saying he would have to be arrested first.
Police handcuffed him along with fellow protester Seth Grossman, a Somers Point lawyer and radio personality. They were charged with trespassing, said Middle Township Police Lt. Paul Fritsch.
“This was an all-out attack on freedom of speech,” said Lonegan, who in 2005 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor.
Corzine said he said he did not order the arrest.
“I think protests and speaking your mind is what democracy is all about, and I support it,” he said.
Placards are typically banned from demonstrations in Middle Township, and school board members had asked police to approach the protesters yesterday, Fritsch said.
Longeman and Grossman were released within an hour of their arrest, police said. Grossman made it back to the high school in time to grill Corzine on the toll hike plan.
Staff writer Joe Ryan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.