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Firefighters protest in New York against mandatory vaccination

Bomberos protestan en Nueva York contra vacunación obligatoria

Thousands of New York City employees, mostly firefighters, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday against the obligation to immunize against COVID-19 announced last week by the mayor’s office.

"Do we ask if you are vaccinated when you call the emergency?", "Needed yesterday, unemployed today", some banners read in the middle of a crowd made up mostly of men.

Protesters reject who they represent for them "the end of freedoms": the American president, Joe Biden, and the democratic mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio.

All city employees were invited to demonstrate from the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, but firefighters – two-fifths of whom have not been vaccinated – were the most numerous.

The fire fighters were recognizable by their barracks T-shirts, some of which featured the names of colleagues killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

According to the New York Fire Department (FDNY), 60% of its employees were vaccinated as of Monday (about 17,000), well below the average for city adults (84%).

Among the protesters who distrust journalists, and amid numerous American flags and pro-Trump slogans, John, a 35-year-old firefighter, explained not being against the vaccine, but against the fact that it is mandatory.

"I would never want someone to feel compelled to disclose my health information"he said, not wanting to give his last name.

Adriane Williams, 43, an employee at the FDNY offices, says she will not get vaccinated, even if it may cost her her job.

"It is a choice between my profession and my life, and I have to choose my life", he assures, despite the fact that the vaccines are considered very safe by a majority of experts and that the side effects are benign in the vast majority of cases.

"But I shouldn’t be forced to choose", he continues, stating that he fears losing his job and finding himself "without anything", after having been "civil servant for 19 years".

After teachers and health personnel in September, whose vaccination rate now exceeds 95%, New York extended the obligation to immunize itself to 160,000 municipal employees, of whom 46,000 had not received their first injection last week.

The city’s police union immediately announced that it would attack this decision in court.

To motivate the most indecisive, the mayor’s office promised a bonus of $ 500 in salary to those who receive the first dose before October 29. Then, the pay of the recalcitrant will be suspended for a first time.

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