They won’t do what the mayor tells them, or what the experts have strongly encouraged — or what millions of New Yorkers have already done.
Hundreds of firefighters and others against the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate marched on the Upper East Side on Thursday, waving flags and shaking their fists outside Gracie Mansion in order to denounce the vaccine mandates that would require firefighters, police officers, and other city workers to get the jab by Friday afternoon, or face being sent home without pay until they comply.
NYPD officers blocked off the roadway leading to the Mayor’s home up to East End Avenue at 88th Street where several hundred furious people assembled.
Although the protest was advertised as being anti-mandate, many also said they were anti-vaccine. Photo by Dean Moses Many firefighters say they will refuse the vaccine. Photo by Dean Moses A young boy climbs on his father’s shoulders to join the protest. Photo by Dean Moses
Setting up a podium and speakers, the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), which represents thousands of firefighters, pleaded with the overwhelming crowd to stay respectful — claiming that the rally was not a political statement but instead a charge to demand choice.
“We’d like to have more time to discuss this,” said Andrew Ansbro, president of the FDNY-UFA, prior to the rally commencing. “The city has not negotiated with us the terms obviously, you know, we set up we believe that 70% of our members have already been sick. There’s no reason why anyone that was sick last week should be forced to get a vaccine. They have without question a natural immunity.”
While natural immunity exists, the CDC continues to advise all Americans , including those who previously contracted COVID-19 and recovered, to get vaccinated — as the shots help strengthen the immune system and offer a more powerful defense against infection and re-infection than natural immunity alone.
Hundreds join members of @FDNY  in support of their #protest  against the vaccine mandate outside of #GracieMansion  #nyc  #news  #mandate  #vaccine  pic.twitter.com/ONlMX3ADQj 
— Dean_Moses (@Dean_Moses) October 28, 2021 
When pressed if Ansbro acknowledges the difference between firefighters who contracted the potentially deadly virus in March of 2020 and those who have gotten ill in more recent months in terms of antibodies still working, Ansbro conceded.
“There’s no question about it. But if those people had the option to go have their antibodies checked, the city should say and accept that,” Ansbro said.
Having the antibodies alone, however, does not guarantee some will avoid reinfection — or unknowingly transmit the virus to others.
FDNY-UFA president speaks as Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa looks on. Photo by Dean Moses A coffin with the word freedom written on it could be seen amongst the crowd. Photo by Dean Moses
Some members of the crowd were asked to leave the mass of humanity after being spotted with swastikas while more carrying signs reading “My body, my choice” and “Essential workers aren’t disposable heroes” continued to descend on the area. One group hauled a coffin into the roaring horde with the word “Freedom” scrawled across it.
A sea of humanity lined the streets. Photo by Dean Moses A sea of humanity lined the streets. Photo by Dean Moses
As officials from the Uniformed Firefighters Association demanded the Mayor reconsider the vaccine mandate, those in the crowd denied the vaccine’s use — the first steps of a downward spiral at the event.
The calls to remain respectful were not only refused but outright ignored as several among them tossed trash into Carl Schurz Park, yelling: “F**k de Blasio!”
Although chaos erupted around him, Ansbro warned more would come if firehouses are forced to close due to worker shortages resulting from the mandate. About 20% of the FDNY has not yet received the vaccine, according to the latest city figures.
To date, more than 6 million New Yorkers — who are dependent upon the FDNY, the NYPD and other civil servants to keep the city running — have rolled up their sleeves to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
NYPD officers stand in the shadow of 911 protest signs. Photo by Dean Moses “I will not comply.” Photo by Dean Moses Many showed what they think of the Mayor. Photo by Dean Moses Signs and flags filled the protest. Photo by Dean Moses chants rang out denouncing the mandate. Photo by Dean Moses