New York Daily News

Crowd 4 Times Too Big - Rudy


Daily News Staff Writer


Mayor Giuliani said out-numbered cops were "playing catchup" at yesterday's huge construction workers' rally  but denied the raucous protest that left 20 cops injured ever got "out of control."

The mayor and Police Commissioner Howard Safir said authorities were prepared for a crowd of 10,000 but had to scramble after the protesters' ranks swelled to four times that number.

"Although the Police Department was playing catchup, they always kept it within some degree of bounds," Giuliani said.

The Building & Construction Trades Council and Local 79 had told police last week to expect about 10,000 demonstrators, according to the mayor. Union officials said they warned the city to expect up to 40,000.

The NYPD initially assigned about 550 officers to the protest, which Giuliani said would have been enough to handle up to 17,000 demonstrators. "I think we were operating on the best information available," Safir said.

Giuliani, meanwhile, defended leaving the city on an aborted campaign tour with state Attorney General Dennis Vacco in the late morning as disturbances continued.

After endorsing Vacco at City Hall about 11 a.m., he accompanied his fellow Republican to a campaign event in Garden City, L.I.

The two were then to fly to Albany for a final event at 3 p.m. But the mayor abandoned the Albany lap of the trip and started back to the city about 1:30 p.m., by van.

"I decided to come back when I heard that there were police officers in the hospital," the mayor said.

Still, Giuliani defended leaving the city to go to Long Island "because the whole situation was under control."

He and Safir said they had talked a dozen times about the status of the demonstration, starting with a phone conversation about 8 a.m. and continuing throughout the morning and early afternoon.

But Giuliani's trip brought criticism from former Mayor Ed Koch, who, in an interview on New York 1, likened the move to then-Mayor David Dinkins "staying in Gracie Mansion when there was a riot in Crown Heights."

Giuliani dismissed Koch as a "a bitter former mayor."

The mayor's rhetoric on the demonstration sharpened as the day went on. Talking with reporters shortly after his City Hall endorsement of Vacco, Giuliani mildly rebuked the construction workers, saying, "This was wrong. They shouldn't have done it."

The mayor clashed with reporters who asked if he had been more permissive with the construction workers than when he cracked down on a threatened cabby motorcade protest in May. "You can do what you want in falsely trying to force comparisons," he said.

At a second news conference, about 3 p.m., the mayor sharply rebuked the construction workers and urged the district attorney to prosecute them on "maximum" charges.

He also said he would sue the Building & Construction Trades Council for damages. The union endorsed Giuliani for reelection last year.

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