2001-09-01 / Front Page

Mayor, PC Must Speak on BC Parade Firings

Mayor, PC Must Speak on BC Parade Firings

By Howard Schwach

Although it has been three years since two New York City firefighters and one police officer rode on a "racist" float in the Broad Channel Labor Day Parade, their case continues of twist slowly through the justice system.

A federal appeals court ruled last meek that such city officials as Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Police Commissioner Howard Safir and Fire Commissioner Tom Van Essen can be questioned and made to give depositions regarding the firing of the two firefighters and the police officer.

Lawyers for the city tried to stop the depositions for the three city officials in a lawsuit filed by Police Officer Joseph Locurto and firefighters Jonathan Walters and Robert Steiner, all of Broad Channel.

After the three were fired for riding on a parade float that carried a sign saying, "Black To The Future," while participants on the float threw watermelon to those lining the sidewalk. One rider hung from the back of the float, allegedly in a mock recreation of the killing of James Byrd, a Black man dragged to his death by three White Texans.

The city lawyers contend that the actions of the three men "disrupted the efficient functioning of the police and fire departments."

After they were fired by their respective agencies, the three filed suit in Manhattan Federal Court.

In a ruling last year, the District Court allowed their lawsuits to go forward, denying the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The three men argue that the decision to fire them was made by the mayor and passed on to the two commissioners long before they had their departmental trials.

They cite the fact that the mayor, at a press conference just days after the incident told reporters, "The only way this guy gets back to the police force is if the Supreme Court of the United States tells us to put him back."

They also argue that the firings violated their first amendment rights to free speech and assembly, pointing to the fact that they were off duty and out of uniform when the parade took place.

They argue that they were "fired for exercising their First Amendment rights and punished for the content of their speech."

The want the three city officials questioned on those issues.

No date has yet been set for the depositions.

Lawyers for the three men, however, want it to happen quickly.

"The case is now three years old," one of the lawyers told reporters. "We want this to happen as quickly as possible."

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