3 Arrested at Firefighter WTC Protest
By Katherine Roth
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Nov. 2, 2001; 1:37 p.m. EST NEW YORK Three fire union officials were arrested Friday after a scuffle with police at ground zero, where firefighters denounced cutbacks in the number of people searching for remains.
"Mayor Giuliani, let us bring our brothers home," read one sign at the rally near the the collapsed World Trade Center towers, where 343 firefighters and 23 New York City police officers were among the thousands of people lost Sept. 11.
The arrests came when firefighters on a protest march tangled with police who initially refused to allow them into the sealed-off area that is hallowed ground to so many. After a few minutes, the firefighters continued on their march and held a minute of silence at the site.
Police said there were a number of arrests for disorderly conduct but could not be more specific. Those in custody included three top union officials, said Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
The group marched a few blocks to personally deliver their message at City Hall, where police in riot gear and officers on horseback stood by. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had announced the staffing cutbacks earlier this week, citing worker safety.
"Our message has been delivered. If we come back here again, we'll come back with 5,000," Gorman as the protesters stood outside a gate at City Hall.
Once there, the marchers observed a second moment of silence before singing "God Bless America." There were no clashes with police at that scene.
Firefighter Bob McGuire, whose nephew Richard Allen was among those missing in the rubble, said remains had been loaded into trash bins. "I don't want him to end up in a Dumpster," McGuire said.
McGuire denied speculation that firefighters wanted to stay at the site to pad their checks. "This has nothing to do with overtime," he said.
"Do the right thing!" the protesters chanted as they listened to union leaders give speeches on bullhorns next to a chain link fence decorated with an American flag.
The firefighters, joined by members of other unions, have worked virtually nonstop at the scene since the towers collapsed.
Giuliani said he wants no more than 24 firefighters and 24 police officers at ground zero at any one time.
The firefighters' union says it fears that would turn the recovery effort into a "full-time construction scoop-and-dump operation."
"That site, besides containing roughly 250 firefighter bodies, also contains many, many, many civilian bodies as well," said Michael Carter, vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press