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Firefighter Punished For Not Turning Hose On NYC Protesters: Suit

NEW YORK CITY — An FDNY firefighter says he was yanked from active duty and unfairly punished after he refused to turn his hose on New Yorkers protesting the murder of George Floyd, court records show.

Rev. Omar Wilks accused the FDNY seeking vengeance after he openly challenged the crowd control tactic ultimately banned by Commissioner Dan Nigro last summer, according to the complaint filed in Brooklyn’s federal court Monday.

“[Wilks] insisted that fire hoses were not to be used for crowd control and that he would not use the fire hose on protester and nor would he permit others to do the same,” the suit contends.

“Seemingly displeased with the Plaintiff’s speech, the Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff by suspending him, demoting him, and barring him from performing his firefighting duties.”

The FDNY referred Patch’s request for comment to representatives from the city’s Law Department who did not immediately respond.

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The suit contends Wilks’ lobbying spurred Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral candidate Eric Adams to demand Nigro “take significant steps to ensure that every FDNY firefighter is clear on the policy,” as the Daily News reported last August.

The order conflicted with a stance held by the FDNY since the 1960s, when it was among the first city fire departments to condemn the use of fire hoses against civil rights protesters in Birmingham, the Daily News report notes.

But the superior who gave the controversial order, not named in the suit, was never disciplined, the suit claims.

Nor did the FDNY address Wilks’s concerns about the lack of diversity in the upper ranks of the department or what the firefighter described as daily marginalization of its Black employees, according to the complaint.

Instead, Wilks was summoned to Downtown Brooklyn headquarters by a group of FDNY chiefs — including Chief of Department Thomas Richardson — and threatened, the lawsuit claims.

“[They] admonished the Plaintiff to keep quiet,” the lawsuit states. “And to not continue to send out his emails and speak out regarding these issues.”

Wilks was then suspended for 30 days, removed from active duty, and falsely accused of absence without leave the day he’d been summoned to FDNY headquarters, the suit contends.

As a result, Wilks lost full-time wages, benefits and any opportunity of promotion, according to the lawsuit.

The suit asks for damages, a declaration that the FDNY violated Wilks’ rights and the return of his post to active duty.

“Plaintiff is an FDNY firefighter who serves his community by placing his life on the line to fight fires,” the suit states.

“Defendants sought to make good on their threats to ruin Plaintiff, jeopardize his employment,
and make his job difficult as a result of speaking out against discrimination at the FDNY that
he and others experienced.”

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To request removal of your name from an arrest report, submit these required items to arrestreports@patch.com.

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