White FDNY lieutenant sues department over racial discrimination after being barred from Vulcan Society memorial

A white firefighter has sued the FDNY after claiming he was barred from participating in a color guard ceremony honoring deceased members of the Vulcan Society -- a fraternal organization of black firefighters.

Lt. Daniel McWilliams has also sued the Vulcan Society after alleging that he was removed from his role as a flag bearer at a 2017 memorial Mass for the group's deceased members because of his race. McWilliams, who was pictured in a well-known photo of firefighters erecting an American flag in the rubble at Ground Zero after 9/11, has outlined his complaint in a lawsuit filed on Friday, the New York Daily News reports.

The lawsuit reveals an exchange between McWilliams and then-president of the Vulcan Society Regina Wilson regarding McWilliams' assignment to the ceremonial unit for the 2017 Mass, which was held at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Harlem.

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“Lieutenant, I specifically requested an all-black color guard,” Wilson allegedly said.

McWilliams, a 29-year veteran of the FDNY responded by questioning, “Are you removing me from the color guard because I am not black?”

"Yes I am," Wilson reportedly answered.

After McWilliams was removed from the ceremonial team, his friends overheard "racially charged exchanges" which prompted the veteran firefighter to leave the church “to save himself from further shame, humiliation and embarrassment," the lawsuit claims.

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“As a result of the defendants’ conduct, (McWilliams) has suffered severe shame, emotional distress and damage to his reputation,” the complaint reads. “Defendant Wilson ... intentionally, maliciously and publicly stripped the plaintiff of (his) prestigious honor ... on account of his race.”

The lawsuit also accuses the department of “once again turning a blind eye to discrimination and creating a double-standard within the FDNY.”

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McWilliams is seeking compensation and punitive damages from the FDNY, Vulcan Society, Regina Wilson and the City of New York. The law department for New York City told the New York Daily News that they were reviewing McWilliams' complaint.