About 200 activists from Philadelphia’s firefighters union disrupted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the city’s first new fire house in 15 years by staging a walkout as an opening prayer was being said and chanting their criticisms of Mayor Nutter outside the $6.7 million station in Tacony.
Union representatives said they will begin collecting signatures for a petition to hold a recall election for the mayor, who has appealed a series of legal decisions that would award retroactive pay raises and other benefits to the firefighters, who have been working without a contract since 2009.
Nutter, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison and even a Catholic priest had to raise their voices to be heard over the chants of "Re-call, re-call" and "bind-ing, bind-ing," the latter referring the binding arbitration awards that Nutter has twice appealed.
While opening new fire houses is something the union has been asking for, it protested the event to show their continued displeasure with Nutter's policies.
One carried a sign displaying an acronym for the mayor’s name: “No Good, Ugly, Two, Timing, Evil, Rat.”
After the event, Nutter said that he respected the firefighters’ 1st Amendment right to protest and that he wanted to celebrate the opening of the new station, at Magee and Keystone.
“It’s America. People have many opportunities and certainly a right to express themselves in a variety of fashions. The community folks may not have been too happy about their timing, given that they were celebrating their new station,” Nutter said. “I’m staying focused on doing my job each and every day and people will do whatever they said they’d do.”