Thousands of protesters, including firefighters and police officers, tied up traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon with a march against New York City’s Covid vaccine mandate.
The policy covering some 50,000 workers comes after similar measures for health-care and education employees and takes effect on Friday afternoon. Anyone who does not comply with the mandate will be placed on unpaid leave starting next Monday, November 1. As an additional incentive, the city has offered $500 to workers who decide to get vaccinated.
Police and fire personnel joined sanitation workers, paramedics, teachers and a range of supporters in what was dubbed the “Anti-Mandate March For Choice.” It followed a smaller-scale demonstration on Sunday outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. NBA star Kyrie Irving, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, has been sidelined by the team until he complies with the city’s vaccine requirement in a highly publicized case.
As Covid vaccines have rolled out in recent months, federal, state and local officials have adopted a wide range of stances. Cities like New York, LA and San Francisco have enacted mandates covering indoor venues and municipal employees, while populous states like Florida and Texas have gone the other way. Debate over vaccines has continued despite a notable lack of scientific evidence indicating they cause harm in any statistically significant way. Last month, with the Delta variant surging in many states, President Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping set of mandates covering as many as 100 million private-sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is in the waning weeks of his second term in office, was asked during his daily press briefing about the resistance to the mandate. Some firefighters and other workers have indicated they plan to show up for work on Monday without being vaccinated.
“I appreciate always the people who do the work,” De Blasio said. “The vast, vast majority” of city residents have elected to get vaccinated, with 85% of all adults in the city having gotten at least one dose. Despite the fact that a “super-super majority of has decided this is the right thing to do,” the mayor added, “there’s still a lot of misinformation out there. Some people are being swayed by it. We’re going to be really clear and consistent” in enforcing the mandate, he said.
Similar saber-rattling, as well as legal challenges, happened when education department workers, including teachers, were confronted with the mandate ahead of the start of school in September. Since those clashes, by the mayor’s count about 3,500 Dept. of Education employees have been vaccinated. “I think you’re going to see some of that” again, he said.
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