Police protest turns ugly By AARON NICODEMUS and JACK SPILLANE,
Standard-Times staff writers MIKE VALERI/The Standard-Times

Protesters at New Bedford Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr.'s fund-raiser last night in Acushnet shout at occupants of a passing car. ACUSHNET -- Pickets from the New Bedford Police Union shouted "traitor," "sellout" and much worse at cars crossing the union picket line to attend Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr.'s fund-raiser at the Century House last night. "Kalisz sucks!" and "Freddie's all done!" were among the chants by more than 200 union members who picketed the fund-raiser to protest their stalled labor negotiations. Members of firefighter, teacher and labor unions also joined the picket line. Campaign officials said despite the animosity outside, the fund-raiser was a record-breaker for the mayor, with reports that he had raised $160,000. Union members spared no one, screaming at anyone who dared cross the picket line. When someone reacted, they got even angrier. Union members chanted profanities, called people vile names and generally attempted to intimidate all comers. Police officers from Acushnet, Fairhaven and Mattapoisett helped guide cars through the line of pickets. Union members were particularly venomous to two dozen police from the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council in full riot gear. Those officers are members of police departments throughout the region, including Wareham and Mattapoisett. "How much does it cost to sell out a brother?" one union member shouted. "I'm going to get you. I'm going to kill you!" another shouted. "You're earning blood money!" shouted a third protester. Union members promised the riot gear-clad officers that they would not back them up in an emergency. They continued the stream of verbal abuse throughout the three-hour picket. "It's not fun being out here," union President Leonard Baillargeon said. "It's demeaning and demoralizing. I personally don't like being here. ... Do I agree with everything that's been said? No, I don't. But these people are frustrated and their frustrations are coming out here." Officer Baillargeon blamed Acushnet Police Chief Michael G. Alves for escalating an already tense situation by bringing in the two dozen riot police. The union president declared that the union and the city are at an impasse in their negotiations. The main issue is health care, he said, although there are others. A mediator has been unable to bring the two sides to an agreement, he said, and the union wants to bring in an arbitrator. "It was a complete overreaction," Officer Baillargeon said. "Things could have been handled a little bit better." Inside the Century House, Mayor Kalisz told his supporters that he had hosted his most successful fund-raiser ever. "The good is what's going on in this room tonight," Mayor Kalisz told his supporters. "The bad is what's going on outside on this same night." Former City Solicitor George Leontire informed a reporter that the campaign had sold about 1,600 tickets at $100 apiece for what he believed was a record-breaking total for a New Bedford mayoral candidate in one night. The mayor and his campaign manager and brother, Michael Kalisz, restated that figure. When Mr. Leontire was later asked to comment on the event, he made a motion over his mouth as if he was zipping his lip. In a prepared statement, the mayor said, "The behavior tonight by the New Bedford Police Union and its supporters is unconscionable. It is a sad day when those sworn to uphold the law intimidate and harass citizens attending a political fund-raiser. Tonight was a disturbing night for me, my family and supporters. As disturbing as the events were, I will not buckle to demands which put the city finances at risk and place a burden that the city property taxpayer cannot afford." The political figures who attended the fund-raiser included District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr., state Rep. Steven Canessa, Councilor at-large John T. Saunders, Ward 5 Councilor Jane Gonsalves, School Superintendent Michael E. Longo, Acushnet Selectman Robert St. Jean, former state Rep. Joseph McIntyre and former state Sen. William Q. "Biff" MacLean of Fairhaven. "We're not afraid to tell you he's our friend," said Michael Kalisz, referring to the former state senator. In 1993, Mr. MacLean pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charges connected to his public office. Mr. MacLean, who worked the room on behalf of the mayor last night, is a legendary fund-raiser. He would not comment on whether he played a role in the mayor's fund-raising. Although Mr. MacLean several times warned his wife not to talk to the press, Mary Jane MacLean told a reporter that she thought the police protest was "intimidating." "For me, you have the freedom to assemble but not to intimidate," she said. Most city officials interviewed were reluctant to comment on the police picket, but not Ronald H. Labelle, the city's superintendent of public infrastructure. He said he thought the protest was "ugly." Mr. Labelle said he is bothered that his department -- a self-financed agency that operates from water and sewer fees -- was forced by state law to pay about $600,000 in police overtime for sewer projects last year. That $600,000 is beyond the $1.2 million the city spent as a whole on police overtime, he said, and came after his department had to lay off 58 positions when it merged with the Department of Public Works several years ago. He asked if the police would march to support AFSCME workers when they are laid off. "I think they're out of control," he said. "They have a difficult job, but what it's come down to lately is, it's nothing but overtime."




MIKE VALERI/The Standard-Times Protesters at New Bedford Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr.'s fund-raiser last night in Acushnet shout at occupants of a passing car


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