New York Daily News

July 16, 2004

Unions plan full 'court' press for OK to protest at Garden

Daily News Exclusive

By JONATHAN LEMIRE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Three city unions are taking their quest to protest at Madison Square Garden to court today, the Daily News has learned.

Lawyers from the city's police, fire and teachers unions will be in Manhattan Federal Court this morning to seek legal action against the NYPD's decision to prevent them from assembling en masse during the runup to the Republican National Convention.

"Police officers spend a great deal of time and energy protecting the general public's constitutional rights," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, "and here we find Mayor Bloomberg attempting to conceal the poor treatment of 9/11 heroes from the Republican Party."

The unions want to put about 400 informational pickets around the Garden starting Monday, the day convention preparations begin inside the arena, to protest their lack of contracts with the city.

Union leaders expressed outrage that they were told by the NYPD that a large protest posed a safety risk.

"Firefighters have bled and died for the City of New York," said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, "and Bloomberg stops us from informing the public his offer to us are zeroes?"

NYPD brass said the protest could hamper pedestrian and delivery access to the arena. The Police Department offered a counterproposal yesterday that would allow the unions to have about 60 members total stand on streetcorners surrounding the Garden, while the remaining protesters stayed across Seventh Ave.

"It's always the union's prerogative to go to court, but the department had offered what we feel like is a reasonable proposal," said chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.