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Police Shut Down Union Protest Outside City Hall

By Julie Shapiro | June 15, 2011 6:03pm | Updated on June 15, 2011 8:58pm

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Police in riot helmets dispersed thousands of union workers who blocked traffic while rallying outside of City Hall Wednesday afternoon.

Cops arrested one protester for disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration, but witnesses said the demonstration for the most part was not-violent.

The NYPD intervened when the crowd swelled beyond the police barriers and flooded Broadway, stopping traffic, witnesses said.

"They just pushed everybody off," said Raul Elanco, 37, a member of the Local 1 plumbers union.

Elanco, a Queens resident, said he attended the protest to tell city officials that they should not use non-union labor.

"If we don't come here and stand up for what's ours, we will end up like any other country," Elanco said.

The rally — which included the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, the AFL-CIO, the Building and Construction Trades Council, the United Federation of Teachers and others — started at 2 p.m. in Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza Park.

The demonstrators then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and made their way to Broadway, where they chanted outside of City Hall until the police broke up the crowd.

Larry, 46, a member of Carpenters Local 157 who did not give his last name, said he didn't blame the police for intervening.

"We're really all on the same side," he said. "We're working people and we're not keeping up with the cost of living."

The city's unions have been negotiating to use hundreds of millions of dollars in rainy day health funds to avert thousands of impending layoffs.

But on Wednesday, the negotiation appeared to have stalled.

"I can tell you that there is a lot of mistrust of City Hall based upon the way we have been treated in the last eight months or so," Harry Nespoli, chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, said in a statement after a meeting with the members that lasted several hours.