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The news, coming as it did just days after the terrorist attacks on the United States, outraged the nation: Three Miami-Dade County firefighters -- Muslims -- refused, because of their political beliefs, to fly the flag of the United States on their fire truck.(1)
The accounts turned out to be wrong, a fact affirmed by a subsequent fire department investigation. The three black firefighters were not Muslims, and they didn't refuse to ride with the flag. They did, however, voice their strong opinions about racial inequality and race-based discrimination in the U.S., hard opinions they'd been expressing for years and which already had earned them enmity within the confines of the majority-white fire department.(2)
It is true that the shift driver, James Moore, removed a large flag from his truck; Moore asserts the flag obstructed his view and covered the ladder controls so as to impede rotation of the aerial. He doesn't mind adding that he wasn't inclined to fly the flag in any case because he, like the other two black firefighters on duty, simply doesn't regard it as a symbol of equality and justice. (1)
The three, hastily put on administrative leave after they became notorious for acts they didn't commit, were directed to return to work in late October 2001.(2)
But the firefighters were not cleared, and as much as county officials would like to have done with it, the matter is far from closed. The fire chief at the time, David Paulison (since moved to Washington as U.S. Fire Administrator), ordered disciplinary action against Clark and Moore, not because they violated the law but because they offended and distressed many of their fellow firefighters by expressing unpopular views during a time of crisis. In other words the two were punished for exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.(2)
WASHINGTON — R. David Paulison, the new head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a seasoned disaster-response expert who has spent years as a behind-the-scenes administrator. Yet he redefined the nation's emergency preparedness with just five words: duct tape and plastic sheeting.
In a small briefing with reporters in 2003, it was Paulison who urged Americans to stock up on those hardware store staples so they could seal windows and doors in a biological or chemical weapons attack. The advice became a staple of late-night comics, who usually misattributed the comment to Tom Ridge, then secretary of Homeland Security.
The Bush administration hasn't put Paulison in front of reporters much since then.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans have apparently heeded the U.S. government's advice to prepare for terror attacks, emptying hardware store shelves of duct tape.
On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison described a list of useful items, stores in the greater Washington, D.C. area reported a surge in sales of plastic sheeting, duct tape, and other emergency items.
These items, Paulison said, can be helpful after a biological, chemical or radiological attack. A Lowe's hardware store in Alexandria, Virginia, said every roll of duct tape has been sold. Another Alexandria Home Depot store reported sales of duct tape tripled overnight.
because they offended and distressed many of their fellow firefighters by expressing unpopular views during a time of crisis