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THE NEW YORK TIMES: July 18, 2002

Pataki Critics Are Kicked Out of a Parade


A group of unemployed workers who distributed fliers critical of Gov. George E. Pataki were ejected from the Dominican Day Parade in the Bronx on Sunday, after the governor's re-election campaign questioned the workers' presence.

The jobless workers, members of a group called the New York Unemployment Project, said police officers surrounded them and herded them off the Grand Concourse, where they had been marching with members of a union that represents janitors and security guards.

The unemployed workers, some of whom lost their jobs because of the World Trade Center attack, were carrying signs calling for extended unemployment insurance benefits. But they were also distributing fliers in English and Spanish that accused the governor of "keeping our families poor" and "ignoring the unemployed."

Supporters of the governor had the group removed from the parade after they saw the fliers, said Jonathan Rosen, an organizer of the Unemployment Project. "People involved in Governor Pataki's campaign were visibly irked by our presence," he said. "There was a lot of buzzing on cellphones, and an hour later we were kicked out."

Mollie Fullington, a spokeswoman for the governor's re-election campaign, said, "We did make a simple inquiry with organizers and with the police" about the group, "to see if it had a permit" to march. But she said any decision to remove the group was made by others.

Lt. Brian Burke, a police spokesman, said the parade's organizers "informed us this group was not permitted to march" and asked community affairs officers to remove it.

But Rosa Ayala, director of the parade organization, said the police made the decision to eject the group. Though the unemployed workers had been brought by 32BJ, the building service union, she said, the workers' group was not on an official list of participants.

The incident seems to reflect the Republican governor's acute political sensitivities involving Latino voters in heavily Democratic New York City. Earlier this month, two Spanish-language television stations stopped running advertisements critical of Mr. Pataki after his aides objected to them. This prompted one of his Democratic challengers, State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, to accuse Mr. Pataki of trying to muzzle those who opposed him. The governor's office said the ads, which criticized Mr. Pataki's plan to change the Rockefeller drug laws, were "blatantly untruthful."

The governor has been endorsed by the hospital workers' union, 1199/SEIU, and he was marching in the parade with its leader, Dennis Rivera, a Democrat. They were directly behind the 32BJ members, who are also affiliated with the SEIU but have not endorsed a gubernatorial candidate. The unemployed workers had already begun marching in the parade when "an officer from the N.Y.P.D. is saying `Hold it, hold it!' and all the cops surrounded us," said Mitchell Price, who lost his job as a car-service dispatcher in December. But the tactic backfired, Mr. Price said, because members of his group then heckled the governor all along the parade route.

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