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Rudy Giuliani Holds a News Conference

Aired November 2, 2001 - 15:12   ET


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST, CNN'S "TALKBACK LIVE": Forgive me for interrupting just a moment here, but we have to cut away quickly. We'll be back. But Rudy Giuliani is speaking with reporters, I believe, in New York, so we'll drop in for just a minute.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: ... that continue to remain there. And we would love to recover them, but none of us standing here can possibly justify seeing a human being die in this effort if it isn't handled with great discipline and great responsibility. And that's the spirit with which this is being done.

And I feel really, really bad that there are certain people who tried to mischaracterize that. And I feel bad about that. But the part that I will not tolerate are people violating the law. Whether you're the mayor, a policeman, a fireman or a regular citizen, you don't get to violate the law. You don't get to punch New York City police officers. For that, you go to jail -- George.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to talk for a minute about this morning. We were prepared to deal with the demonstration responsibly. We were prepared to deal with professionals, what we assumed would be professionals. We talked to union members. Those union members ensured us that there would be a peaceful demonstration, and that's what we prepared for.

We didn't anticipate that they would pick up and flip the barricades on top of the cops. We didn't anticipate that they would punch police officers in the face. We didn't anticipate the behavior that came out of the demonstration.

As a result, we have five police officers injured, two with black eyes and trauma a to the face, three with neck, shoulder and back injuries. And there's been 12 arrests made at this point. Eleven active firefighters, six are firefighters, three are lieutenants. One is a captain, one is a fire marshal. There is one retired captain. And two of the arrestees are union representatives, being held in custody at this point.

There will be an investigation. We are now reviewing the tapes, the videotapes taken by TARU, a unit in the police department. And I anticipate the investigation will lead to further arrests.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at this point it's still being ironed out. But it's going to be assault, in all probability, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

QUESTION: Could that possibly result in jail time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could, possibly. I hope so.

QUESTION: Why do you hope so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do I hope so? Because nobody should assault a New York City cop. They shouldn't be assaulting anyone, but you're not going to assault a cop and get away with it.

GIULIANI: Ken, do you want to describe the reason for the changes that were made several days ago?

KEN HOLDEN, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT DESIGN CONSTRUCTION: The -- Ken Holden, commissioner, Department of Design and Construction.

QUESTION: Could you spell your last name?

HOLDEN: Holden, H-O-L-D-E-N.

The construction site is a smaller site, and we still have a considerable number of large pieces of construction equipment. As a result, it creates a potential for an accident to occur. The intention is to mitigate that by reducing the number of people on the site.

The overall plan is to have at all times 25 people from the police department, 25 people from the fire department, 25 people from Port Authority police on site at all times. And they will have spotters spread throughout the site, individual spotters. The search and recovery teams will be kept to the side outside of harm's way.

When the spotters find human remains that require the excavation to stop, and for people to climb on to the pile, excavation will stop. The excavators will back off. And the firefighters and the policemen who are in the safe areas will then come on to the site and will then do their searches.

And when they have removed remains that need removing, or criminal evidence, whatever they find, then they will go back into a safe area. The spotters will remain on the piles and the construction will continue.


HOLDEN: Correct. They'll either be -- they're firefighters, NYPD or PAPD.

QUESTION: What is the change? How many people were on the tower before, (OFF-MIKE)? HOLDEN: Now we're reducing it to 75. I'm not sure actually -- I think they were a couple hundred people, as of several weeks ago. And certainly in September, there were many, many hundreds of people on the site. So we're basically trying to contain the total number of people on the site so that if something does go wrong, the likelihood of anyone getting hurt is small.


GIULIANI: I'm sorry. I think what I was describing were a group of near misses that have taken place over the last three or four weeks. One was the collapse of the plaza that took place several weeks ago. And there were people standing there just a short while before. The others have been several incidents like the one that I observed myself, when a person was almost hit by a crane.

I observed a firefighter almost hit by a crane. The crane came probably within that much distance of his head, and someone tackled him and knocked him to the ground. And then the crane went past. Had the crane had hit him, he would have been killed or very, very significantly injured.

There have been situations described to me of people almost run over because they are working below ground, and the heavy equipment is moving over them. And then if you just think logically about the site, as the site narrows and you have the same heavy equipment. If you have the same number of people -- particularly if you have a lot of people standing around with nothing to do, which was the case -- the risk of losing control of those people, not knowing where they are, becomes very, very dangerous.

Think of it as a military action. If you don't know where your soldiers are, and they are just like all over the battlefield, then you can accidentally, you know, kill your own soldiers. In this particular case -- the reports that were written are one thing. I think they all say pretty much what I'm about to say now.

This is the way it was described to me by a very high level construction professional. The operation that is going on there is out of control, and if you don't reorganize it and professionalize it, in the name of trying to find human remains, you are going to kill more people. And I'm not going to have that on my conscience, and neither are the people standing here. It isn't right.

It isn't right to have to -- to have to put the lives of these other people in jeopardy, including the very firefighters that we're talking about. They are the ones whose lives are in jeopardy. Maybe they are so closely attached to it, so emotionally involved, so overwhelmed with it, that they can't see this. But you need some degree of professional detachment if you are going to be responsible for the lives of other people.

You need to be able to detach yourself from a situation to be able to say, well, these are the rules that have to be put into place, because we have to protect the lives of maybe even these people that don't realize they need that protection. That's unfortunately the leadership that's lacking in the group that conducted this demonstration today.

They are playing on much more simplistic and easy to excite human emotions, and not really helping people very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Von Essen, could you tell us what your thought are today bout what happened?


QUESTION: ... for firefighters and their families. How do they think (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GIULIANI: We have been describing it. We've sent out circulars, we've talked to them about it -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had lots of opportunities to get accurate information. There hasn't been any desire, I don't think, on the part of the people who organized this thing today, to get accurate information out. In addition to what Commissioner Holden talked about, we have the ability to get 100 people there in five minutes. So we know that any time that we needed additional people, we have that capability.

What we found, as the mayor talked about as the site has shrunk, is there were just too many people in the way. That we need to have people there. We don't need people there doing nothing, or just becoming part of the problem, rather than the solution.

I would like to say something else, too. I'd like to apologize, on behalf of the fire department, to those police officers. I think that that's -- they have been our brothers in this tragedy from day one. From the first minute of the tragedy they were part of the rescue and recovery. They have done everything together, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics -- everybody has worked together on this from day one. And to think today that we assaulted five of them -- on the part of the department, I want to apologize.

I also want to apologize to the families for the fact that they would get all of this wrong information. And now to get all of these people, who are going through such emotion, to have them think that we would walk away from the site, or that we would not have enough people at the site to, in the most effective way, and the most way, with decorum and with dignity, to try to get the remains of the loved ones, still worrying about the safety of our firefighters. I think it's really a shame.

And I apologize to them for whoever gave them all of this horrible information. And to the firefighters, who were under some wrong impression that we would do what they have been told we would do.

QUESTION: Do you think the people who were arrested should be sent to jail? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police will decide that. Anybody who punched a police officer in the face has committed a serious crime, in my opinion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I don't even want to believe that it was -- someone had a plan to do this. What would the plan be? It's sick, to do this to these families. And to the firefighters, who are going through the most emotional time that anybody could possibly go through. We graduated 248 people yesterday, and six of them weren't there. People who would have graduated had died before that.

The emotions that everybody is going through is horrible. Absolutely horrible. How you could not just wait a few days to see how this new plan worked, before you would let this happen, I think is a disgrace. This has been an ongoing work these past seven weeks. We have changed the procedure five, six, seven times, constantly shrinking, expanding where we needed it, shrinking it where we needed it.

And have done a terrific job working together with police, construction experts, design and construction. It's just, it's terrible for people to have all this wrong information.

QUESTION: Could you talk about the health of the firefighters? Did that have anything to do with the decision to pull those guys out of the site?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The fact that we have a lot of people complaining about a cough, or -- no, that's not it. People are there, supposed to have their respirators on. People are taking medicine if they have a problem. They're off the line if they have a problem. So that wasn't it.

We have enough people. We can get as many people that we need there in five minutes.

QUESTION: Commissioner, other than controlling the fire that's burning there, why should there be any fire personnel?

HOLDEN: People have made that argument, and there might be, as the mayor referred to, logic to a detached group of people going through this without the emotional involvement that our people have. We have pleaded with the mayor to make sure that the firefighters, the police officers, the Port Authority Police, who have given so much are able to be part of this, because it's the right thing, we believe, to do.

But if this type of behavior continues, that will be relooked at.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these firefighters, financial considerations? There's a lot of money to spend. You have a lot of uniforms, services, overtime down at the site. Did the union seem to indicate that there were financial considerations? GIULIANI: I don't know of any financial considerations, that would be -- I can't imagine that anybody would be -- I do not believe that whatever motivated this had to do with financial considerations. It would be very, very hard to believe that all of a sudden they would get people all riled up and start punching cops over financial reasons. I don't believe that's the case.

I rather think it is the people are very upset. They're very distraught. Some people handle it differently than others. Some people can handle it more professionally. Some people lose control.

And -- but the reality is then, if you're the police commissioner or the fire commissioner or the mayor, and you're responsible for the lives of other people, you have to say maybe these people are too emotionally involved to be involved in this operation. Maybe -- maybe these are not the people that have the ability to detach so they can handle it professionally. That's I think more what's going on here.


GIULIANI: Yes. All of the spotters are either firefighters or police officers or Port Authority Police Officers. Nobody is going to be corralled. And the reality is that -- here's the problem that is trying to be avoided. What's trying to be avoided is they are running in and getting themselves in the middle of very heavy equipment without the people operating the equipment knowing they are there, burrowing underground, so that when the equipment is moved you don't know they are there.

If you have a lot of excess people hanging around with nothing to do, which has been the case for substantial portions of this -- a lot of people hanging around with nothing to do -- then the ability to operate this site safely becomes very, very difficult. That's why the safely experts came to me and advised me that you have to exercise more control over the site. You have been very fortunate.

And I thank God that we've been very fortunate, that we have had not a fatality there. So three or four days ago we made these changes. And I would really ask people to work with them, rather than to deliberately try to distort what is going on here. It's a tragedy to do that.

Whether you're out of control and you don't know what you're doing, or there's some deliberate plan, I don't know. But the net effect is the same thing. The net effect is exploiting and taking advantage of people, and it's really a horrible thing.

So they really should just back off and just see how this...

BATTISTA: All right, Mayor Giuliani there bringing us up to date on the recovery efforts at ground zero, where evidently they are starting to experience some problems, including a lack of control of the recovery effort. There was a demonstration earlier today among firefighters and uniformed officers down there, because the mayor and the city have cut back on the number of firefighters participating in the recovery effort.

There was 300 at one point, and now there's only about 100 down there. And that, evidently, is causing some bad feelings among some of the uniformed officers in New York. And a scuffle broke out and the mayor told us those responsible will be prosecuted.




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