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Hunting Protester May Have Case Against Cop

(CN) - A police chief must face claims that he was unfair to a disabled protester who wants Gov. Chris Christie to end bear hunting in New Jersey, a federal judge ruled.

Colleen Krol, a self-described "zealous advocate against hunting," sued Mendham Township, N.J., several of its police officers, and five state troopers for allegedly interfering with her right to protest.

In her federal complaint, Krol says is "well known to government officials" because of her participation in protests at the homes of past New Jersey governors and senate members.

When Krol informed then-Police Chief Steven Crawford that she planned to stage and participate in a bear-hunting protest at Gov. Chris Christie's home in Mendham in December 2010, the official allegedly told her she could only do so from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Although Krol is disabled, suffering from a disk disease which leaves her "unable to move without great difficulty," Crawford insisted that she remain standing at the edge of the road and park hundreds of feet away from the protest site, according to the complaint.

Krol further alleges that five state troopers convinced Crawford to impose these restrictions on her, and that police officers "enforced" the "official policy" by threatening her with arrest, prosecution and jail.

Her complaint sets forth 16 causes of action under the state and federal constitutions, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act and Law Against Discrimination.

U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden refused to dismiss Krol's claim against Crawford.

"The court is satisfied that as to Crawford, Krol has pleaded facts sufficient to state a constitutional claim," the unpublished ruling states. "Restrictions on protests can implicate first amendment rights, which in turn can be vindicated via 42 U.S. Code § 1983. Crawford directly interacted with Krol and his culpability is straightforwardly alleged."

But Hayden dismissed the claims against the other township defendants.

"The complaint fails to plead any facts suggesting the other township defendants' personal involvement with Crawford's conduct," she wrote.

Hayden also threw out Krol's "threadbare (and somewhat inconsistent) accusations and conclusory statements" against the township itself. (Parentheses in original.)

These claims alleged in part that Mendham "had no municipal ordinances directed at, or regulating, peaceful demonstrations or protests," but that the rules imposed at the 2010 protest were its "official policy," and that its officials "encouraged" and "ratified" Crawford's actions.

"The assertions against these defendants amount to 'unadorned the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusations,' and the motion to dismiss is granted as to them," Hayden wrote.

Krol has leave to amend her complaint, according to the ruling.

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