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Firefighters protest plan to reduce workers at WTC site
Associated Press WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- Several firefighters scuffled with police Friday during a protest against a plan to scale back the number of workers searching for bodies at the World Trade Center site.
"Mayor Giuliani, let us bring our brothers home," read one sign at the rally near the World Trade Center site where 343 firefighters and 23 New York City police officers were lost Sept. 11.
Some of the several hundred protesters tangled with police who initially refused to allow them into the sealed-off area around the collapsed towers. After a few minutes, they continued on their march, then paused for a minute of silence.
Firefighter Bob McGuire, whose nephew Richard Allen remains missing in the rubble, asserted that remains had been loaded into trash bins. "I don't want him to end up in a Dumpster," McGuire said.
"Do the right thing!" the scores of protesters chanted as they listened to union leaders give speeches on bullhorns next to a chain link fence decorated with an American flag.
The firefighters, joined by members of other unions, have worked virtually around-the-clock at the scene since the twin 110-story towers collapsed.
But earlier this week, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that for safety concerns, he wants no more than 24 firefighters and 24 police officers at ground zero at any one time.
The firefighters' union says it fears that would turn the recovery effort into a "full-time construction scoop and dump operation."
"The reduction in emergency personnel is really an attempt to speed up debris removal, and it is upsetting to the families," Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said Thursday.
Firefighters estimate that 250 firefighters are still buried in the rubble and want to continue to search for them.
"That site, besides containing roughly 250 firefighter bodies, also contains many, many, many civilian bodies as well," said Michael Carter, vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
On Thursday, the New York Fire Department added 240 new members to its ranks, handing out diplomas to trainees at a ceremony marked by six empty chairs -- seats symbolically held for classmates who died in the trade center collapse.
Thursday's training academy graduates were the first since the terrorist attacks, but they still leave the department more than 100 shy of filling all the places of those lost.
The six trainees who died were awarded diplomas posthumously. The chairs that marked their places were draped in purple bunting and blue FDNY uniform shirts.
"We will remember their bravery in all that we do throughout our lives," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a department chaplain.
The New York Times reported Friday that the NYPD faces the prospect of accelerated retirements of veteran officers who can quality for larger pensions this year because their earnings have been fattened by unprecedented overtime pay since the attack.
Joseph Maccone, who managed the department's pension unit last year and now works for the police officers' union, told the paper: "Anyone contemplating retirement before, this overtime will definitely make them decide on retiring."
As the ground zero work continues, the city is exploring whether a giant dome could be built so the recovery effort can continue through the winter.
The idea was discussed by Robert Adams, safety director for the city Department of Design and Construction, who testified Thursday before the City Council's environmental protection committee.