A Potentially explosive confrontation over Gov. Cuomo's tough new gun law was avoided over the weekend as 1199 SEIU, the hospital workers union, abruptly canceled a Thursday rally designed to challenge some 10,000 opponents of the governor's measure, the NY Post reported today.
Earlier this month, gun rights advocates announced that they would hold a rally Thursday. They said it would be one of the biggest protests ever at the state Capitol, with 10,000 or more in attendance.
According to the SEIU website where the counter-rally was announced, "1199SEIU members are going to the State Capitol in Albany to take on the NRA and big gun companies – and defend the Governor’s NY SAFE Act that protects our families! Now is the time to defend the NY SAFE Act, the law passed last month that takes deadly weapons out of the wrong hands."
But late last week, rally backers were startled to learn that 1199, which has strong ties to Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and the state Democratic Party, had joined with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to bus backers of the new law to a counter-rally. "Join Us in Albany to Support Gov. Cuomo's NY Safe Act to end gun violence,'' the SEIU said on its Web site.
The original flyer posted to the SEIU website was removed, as was any reference to the protest from the union's "events" page. Assemblyman Bill Nojay (R-Rochester), who opposes the new gun law, said, "Rent-a-mobs to provoke a confrontation cannot have a good ending.''
Brian Olesen, one of the state's largest gun dealers, said many opponents of Cuomo's measure viewed the SEIU rally as an attempt to provoke a confrontation.
Most of SEIU's membership is black and Hispanic, while most of the opponents of the Cuomo law are white. Advocates on both sides of the issue were concerned that any confrontation would be seen as having racial overtones.
As word of the planned counter-rally spread, the Albany police and aides to Cuomo agreed there was the potential for a serious confrontation. Late Saturday afternoon, 1199 removed any mention of the rally from its Web site, and knowledgeable insiders said the pro-gun law rally was canceled.
"This could have gotten really ugly, and it made sense just to have the rally in support of the governor's law another time,'' said a source close to the situation.
The SEIU represents 1.8 million healthcare and building service workers. The 1199SEIU, the United Healthcare Workers East, is a combination of 15 healthcare Locals throughout New York State, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Massachusetts.
The SEIU had been offering free bus rides from nine locations around New York City and Long Island and free meals to attend.
According to posts online, some pro-gun SEIU members were planning on attending by way of the union's buses, but not to protest in favor of the gun law. These "sleepers" as they were called were planning on boarding the buses for the ride from NY City to Albany then joining the marchers in favor of gun rights.
According to an online post from one of their members, the Shooters' Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) issued an appeal for "pro-gun SEIU, or union members of other stripe to get on these buses, get themselves a free meal, and come to Albany to support your individual "Civil Right" to keep & bear arms."
SCOPE is sponsoring at least 35 buses from around the state to bring pro-gun protesters to Albany. Estimates vary as to how many 2nd Amendment marches can be expected in Albany from 10,000 to approximately 50,000 people.
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