Vote to Boycott Bush Sept. 11 Tribute Wed Aug 14,
9:28 PM ET
By Steve Friess
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The International
Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously on
Wednesday to boycott a national tribute to
firefighters who died on Sept. 11, in an angry
response to U.S. President George Bush's
rejection of a bill that included $340 million to
fund fire departments.
Bush is expected to speak at the Oct. 6
ceremony in Washington D.C., where the National
Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation is hosting its
annual tribute to those who died in the line of
duty during the prior year.
The ceremony will honor 343 firefighters who
died responding to the Sept. 11 attacks on New
York and Washington, as well as about 100 others
who also died in the year.
The IAFF, the umbrella organization for the
nation's professional firefighter unions, is
enraged by the president's rejection of a $5.1
billion appropriations bill that included $150
million for equipment and training grants
requested by some of the nation's 18,000 fire
It also include $100 million to improve the
communications systems for firefighters, police
officers and other emergency personnel as well as
$90 million for long-term health monitoring of
emergency workers at the Ground Zero site where
New York's World Trade Center towers once stood.
Firefighters and survivors
will be urged to skip the Oct. 6 event in
protest, said R. Michael Mohler of the Virginia
Professional Fire Fighters Local 774.
Mohler made the boycott motion before about 2,000
union leaders convening in Las Vegas for the
IAFF's first national conference since Sept. 11.
"The president has merely been using
firefighters and their families for one big photo
opportunity," Mohler said. "We will
work actively to not grant him another photo op
BUSH ACCUSED OF "NEGLECTING HEROES"
Bush said Tuesday the bill was bloated by less
important projects and a White House spokeswoman
said Bush remained committed to firefighters and
other emergency groups.
"The president is committed to our
nation's first responders," White House
spokeswoman Claire Buchan, traveling with Bush in
Des Moines, Iowa, said.
The firefighters' boycott vote followed anti-Bush
speeches by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle,
and IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger in
which accused the president of neglecting the
heroes of Sept. 11.
Schaitberger ridiculed as insincere Bush's
videotaped remarks shown Monday at the
conference, in which Bush expressed sympathy and
admiration for the firefighters who responded to
the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one
breath, and then stab us in the back by
eliminating funding for our members to fight
terrorism and stay safe," Schaitberger said.
"President Bush ( news
sites), you are either with us or against us.
You can't have it both ways."
Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, told the
firefighters: "I strongly urge the President
to reconsider. If he refuses to do so, however, I
am prepared to do everything I can as majority
leader to see that you get the resources you need
to do your jobs safely and effectively."
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