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John Edwards refuses to cross picket line to attend fund-raiser
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. _ Sen. John Edwards refused on Monday to cross a local firefighters' picket line and attend a Democratic fund-raiser for himself and presidential contender John Kerry, a member of the Kerry-Edwards campaign team said.

Edwards, the vice presidential candidate with Kerry, was scheduled to attend a reception at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence that organizers hoped to raise about $500,000 for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. He was to arrive at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick this afternoon. It was unclear whether he had arrived at the reception.

Outside the hotel, more than two dozen firefighters picketed over contract negotiations with Mayor David Cicilline, a Democrat. Some held signs that read "Negotiate," "Tell the Truth," and "Cicilline Democrats?"

Mark Weiner, a member of the Kerry-Edwards campaign team in Rhode Island, announced Edwards would not attend the reception due to the firefighters' picket.

Joe Paolino, one of the event's main organizers, said he was disappointed the North Carolina senator didn't attend.

"But you can't do anything about it," he added.

Paolino said he learned before the reception began that Edwards wouldn't come. He couldn't say whether Edwards ever touched down in Rhode Island. He did say the event was going on without him.

"People are still there. I did my thing, and I left," he said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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