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NYC Firefighters, Police Plan Protest

"NYC Firefighters, Police Plan Protest"

William Murphy and Glenn Thrush, NewsDay

Firefighters, police officers and teachers plan an
around-the-clock demonstration outside Madison Square Garden
beginning Monday to protest the lack of a new contract.

The labor protest is geared to coincide with the start of
work on the Garden to get it ready for next month's
Republican National Convention, the unions representing the
workers said Monday. The union announcement comes as
planning for convention-week protests intensified and Mayor
Michael Bloomberg vowed to prevent demonstrators from
sabotaging daily life for New Yorkers.The unions have resisted Bloomberg's attempts to get them to
accept contracts similar to a deal given to District Council
37, the largest municipal union, in April.

That settlement provided $1,000 cash payments and a raise of
5 percent over three years in exchange for productivity
measures, including expanded work hours and reduced starting

Next week's protest "will serve to highlight further our
demands for fair compensation and our complete
dissatisfaction with the unacceptable terms of the DC 37
deal, which the city wishes to force on all of us," Stephen
Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association

Details of the latest protest were being worked out, but the
firefighters have asked their members to put in an
eight-hour stint at the Garden.

Bloomberg, speaking at a City Hall news conference, said the
city would tolerate all peaceful protests before and during
the convention, but he drew the line when asked about
Internet chatter indicating anarchists were encouraging

"My first concern is to protect the civil rights of the 8.1
million people that live here," Bloomberg said. "If people
want to come here and protest, we also want to accommodate
them," he said. "But nobody's going to take away the rights
of our citizens to go about their business, go to school, go
to work.

Bloomberg reiterated his opposition to a 250,000-person
anti-war protest planned by United for Peace and Justice in
Central Park.

In the past, Bloomberg has cited the damage such a
demonstration would inflict on the park's Great Lawn, but
yesterday, he rejected it on security grounds.

"I don't think there is any question Central Park does not
fit from a security point of view," he said. "You have a
vast bunch of people together with no ways to get in and out
and no ways to control entrance and egress. From every point
of view, it's not something that we will do."

Those arguments infuriated UPJ's organizers, who will meet
Friday with police officials to hash out a compromise that
has thus far proven elusive.

"The mayor is an embarrassment," said William Dobbs, an
organizer with the group. "He is a menace to the First
Amendment and clearly intent on destroying the right to
assembly in this town. Central Park belongs to the people,
not to rich mayors."

Bloomberg described Dobbs's tactics as "theatrics."