Thousands of police officers and firefighters showed up in Trenton to protest Governor Chris Christie’s austerity programs. But an e-mail intercept from one of the union bosses casts serious doubt on their sincerity.
More than 6500 police officers and firefighters were at the rally, according to Salvador Rizzo of the Statehouse Bureau, who also filed this report. In addition, about 40 Democratic members of the legislature took their turns attacking Christie, and also attacking one State Senator who was not present: Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3), who has proposed an austerity measure not far removed from what Christie has been asking for.
Christie, for his part, said that the rally was a “me-first” rally, with selfishness as its motivation. In response, Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association President Bill Lavin said:
I could not agree more because every time a bell rings, every time a shot is fired, you say, “Me first! I’m going in first!” The governor loves you when you’re dying and when you’re silent, but he hates your union because he hates your voice.
However, Lavin might want to explain this e-mail that Don Loos at BigGovernment.com intercepted and published, attributed to Captain James P. Smith of the Fire and Rescue Services Department, Ocean City, NJ:
The legislators in Wisconsin have left their State because they support their working class. We need to show our legislators that we care about our benefits. If we don’t show up, why the hell should they care about our benefits? A paltry turnout does not help President Lavin to stand up as our leader. If our numbers are small then the legislators will chuckle at us.
This rally is MANDATORY for all members. To quote President Lavin “I expect EVERYONE of our members to be in attendance. The only excuse is that you are on duty in the firehouse or that you’re in the hospital!!! Your second job is not a valid excuse!!!”
President Lavin was strong in his message “YOU SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED IF YOU DO NOT ATTEND” and he was adamant when he stated “DO NOT EXPECT HELP FROM THE FMBA EVER AGAIN IF YOU DON’T ATTEND THIS RALLY!!!”
Allow me [Capt. Smith] to repeat how strong President Lavin feels about your attendance at this rally next Thursday. … “DO NOT EXPECT HELP FROM THE FMBA EVER AGAIN IF YOU DON’T ATTEND THIS RALLY!!!”
We will take attendance on Thursday to see which locals are present and which locals can expect assistance in the future. Turnout coats are suggested to be worn, this makes our presence look even larger, helmets are optional. I don’t need to hear excuses on why people aren’t attending … tell them to man up and be there.
The turnout coat is the bulky gear that a firefighter wears when answering an alarm. (See illustration at left of the three kinds of gear that firefighters wear when “turning out” for an alarm.) The spectacle of thousands of men wearing those coats would indeed make the crowd look larger than it actually is, and also be a play on the sympathies of the public.
Christie wasn’t chuckling, but he did say that the rally would have “zero effect” on his policies.
They can call me whatever names they want. They can bus up here and protest all they like, too. All of those things, while well within their rights, do not change the reality of the situation.
The “busing in” is a reference, not only to the distances that some of the attendees traveled, but also to the presence at the rally of union presidents from New York City, Boston, and several cities in Illinois, a thing that Rizzo documented.
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