New York Police, Fire Unions Sue City

NEW YORK (AP) -- Organizations representing police officers and firefighters sued the city Wednesday, saying their constitutional rights to peaceful protest were being trampled by a government that ignores the First Amendment.

The lawsuit asked a U.S. District Court judge to stop the city from resurrecting restrictions that courts have already decided are unconstitutional as the unions, whose contract talks with the city have stalled, rally against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The city has repeatedly blocked small groups of protesters from getting close enough to the mayor or the public to get their message across, the lawsuit charged.

The groups said the issue has become critical now because the Republican National Convention provides ``an ideal forum'' to tell the public that police and firefighters have been working without a collective bargaining agreement for almost two years.

Bloomberg has said the city cannot give its municipal workers large pay hikes.

``It would be great if we could pay our municipal workers more,'' the mayor said Tuesday.

In recent weeks, the police and fire unions have staged several demonstrations and shadowed Bloomberg wherever he goes including staging a rally outside his home in the middle of the night.

The state Public Employment Relations Board has ordered the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the city to resolve its dispute through binding arbitration, an option also open to firefighters.

A message for comment left with the city was not immediately returned.