Union Protesters Drown Out Mayor Nutter’s Budget Speech
As expected, Mayor Michael Nutter gave a speech to a packed hall of union protesters, angry at the administration for having worked several years without a new negotiated contract. Things had been a little nutty throughout the morning, as the City Council debated earned sick leave and a couple other issues. Protesters had shown up early with signs portraying the mayor as a clown, whom they were calling “Bozo.”
One chant heard before the shindig got started: “Bozo sucks.”
The council passed earned sick leave by a vote of 11-6, and the business manager of DC 33 actually used public comment time before that vote to say, yeah, sure, private workers deserve paid sick time, but I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about.
“Get your head out of the sand, and take care of District Council 33 … give us a contract,” he said. “We save the city money. I look out this damn window, and I see the mayor wasted $2 billion on capital funding projects we didn’t need … Any of you guys buy a pair of ice skates yet?”
There were lots of cheers for that.
Protesters brought whistles and their best cheering voices, and by the time Nutter got to the podium to speak, the cacaphony was at full volume. It was impossible to make out what the mayor was saying, even though he was screaming his speech into the microphone. Casual comments, like “recognizing” someone in the crowd, were told in his most gravely stump-speech voice. Council President Darrell Clarke called for order several times, but it was no use.
After a couple minutes, the council interrupted the mayor as he continued screaming, and they called for a recess. Everyone seemed to “aye” that decision, and they got up to walk out.
Nutter continued screaming his speech.
He stopped and spoke briefly to Councilman Clarke, then got back to the podium and screamed some more. He stopped again and began walking out. Union protesters began an “asshole” chant as he did.
Whistles continued. There was a chant calling for a return of Mayor John Street, who was in the audience.
“Hell no, we won’t go,” the crowd chanted.
Nutter finished his speech in the Mayor’s Reception room in front of an audience of media and supporters. He noted that he agreed those unions should have contracts, but that they need to be fair.
He took questions on the action in City Council and addressed it directly.
“I think the tragedy here, is, no matter what’s going on, the Council Chamber … its grandeur and its history deserves a certain amount of respect.” He called the protesting “disrespectful” to City Council, though noted: “This is Philly…the free speech capital of the United States, if not the world.”
He also noted that if council had stayed in session, he would have continued giving the speech. “It was a rather unique day,” he said.
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