Activists speak out against ‘racial issues in FDNY’

Jumaane Williams leads elected officials speaking out against racial issues in FDNY.
Office of Council Member Jumaane Williams

Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams joined local activists, including the Rev. Kirsten John Foy and the National Action Network (NAN), in speaking out against the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY) intention to allow Joe Cassano to re-enter its ranks on Monday, Dec 4.

Cassano, 28, resigned four years ago after backlash to a series of racist and anti-Semitic tweets he published, said Williams, representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

Cassano, the son of former FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, was set to join the FDNY Academy on Monday.

Williams and Foy are among those opposed to Cassano re-joining the force, saying “his past statements make him unfit for the post.”

Last week, Williams again spoke out against what he described as “racial inequity in the FDNY” at a press conference in support of the “FDNY 7,” who are suing the organization for racially-biased practices.

According to PIX11, Cassano resigned in 2013 after tweeting messages such as, “News flash to half of the island — ur white! Stop talking like ur a shwoog.” Shwoog is a derogatory term for a person of African descent, PIX11 said.

“I like Jews about as much as Hitler #toofar? nope,” said another Cassano tweet, which Williams read at the protest.

“MLK could go kick rocks for all I care, but thanks for the time and a half today,” yet another Cassano tweet read.

PIX11 said Cassano was allowed to rejoin the EMT ranks of the fire department, “because he’d resigned, rather than having been fired. It is common for EMTs to transition to firefighter status.”

That fact is no solace to Rev. Foy, the president of NAN’s Brooklyn Chapter.

“If you’re a black firefighter,” he told PIX11 News, “or a Jewish firefighter and this guy is behind you in a burning building, do you feel safe?”

Cassano has, since his infamous tweets from four years ago, apologized multiple times and undergone counseling with the rabbi who ran the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, PIX11 said.

But it said that is still not convincing some officials and activists.

“An apology is nice,” said Rev. Foy. “But that doesn’t mean he can be trusted with the public’s health.”

On Monday, Mayor Bill De Blasio defended Joe Cassano’s promotion to firefighter, saying that while Cassano’s tweets were “inexcusable,” the mayor, nonetheless, “believe[s] in second chances,” and that Cassano deserves one, according to PIX11.

However, the mayor added, “If there’s any further incident, it’ll be dealt with very harshly.”

Cassano was expected to be sworn in as a probationary firefighter on Dec. 11, PIX11 said.

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