Bowing to pressure from officials, Rev. Al Sharpton announced this morning that he will send caravans across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to protest police brutality instead of marching on foot.
Mr. Sharpton said at his National Action Network Headquarters in Harlem that the issue was the death of a Staten Island man in police custody–not whether people could walk across a bridge with no pedestrian walkway.
“Everybody made the bridge the issue,” Mr. Sharpton declared. “So the bridge did not choke Eric Garner. The issue is not the bridge. The issue is the homicide that no one has told this family or the community what they’re gonna do about it and who’s gonna be in charge.”
Mr. Sharpton announced earlier this week that he would march across the large suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island to protest the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after police placed him in an apparent chokehold, a prohibited maneuver. Immediately, elected officials in both boroughs questioned the logistics of the march and even Public Advocate Letitia James, a Sharpton ally, called for the march to take place elsewhere.
Today Mr. Sharpton said, after consulting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, he would not lead followers across the bridge on August 23 as planned. Instead, he will bus protesters on caravans from throughout the city and even New Jersey–a bus will also depart from NAN headquarters in Harlem.
Once in Staten Island, protesters will march from the site where Mr. Garner died to the offices of Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Mr. Sharpton said. Mr. Sharpton wants the federal government or Mr. Donovan, a Republican who is close to police unions, to bring charges against the officers who were with Mr. Garner when he died on July 17.
“We’re gonna bring those caravans to the toll bridge of the Verrazano and we’re gonna line up and we’re going to Staten Island for justice for Eric Garner,” Mr. Sharpton continued. “If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus! Get on the caravan!”
Mr. Sharpton and several elected officials have charged that Mr. Garner, a black man targeted by police for selling cigarettes illegally, was targeted because of his race. The New York City Medical Examiner ruled last week Mr. Garner’s death was homicide, a judgment police unions leaders rejected. Unions leaders attacked Mr. Sharpton this week and accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of not supporting police officers while keeping too close to Mr. Sharpton.
Mr. Sharpton, however, dismissed the criticisms of the police and mocked their belief that Mr. Garner was not placed in a chokehold. (Mr. de Blasio, along with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, said that the videotaped incident showed Mr. Garner in a chokehold.)
“We will march from the site that Eric was choked to Donovan’s office and now we’re gonna stay a little while and rally that afternoon,” Mr. Sharpton said. “We want the DA–we don’t wanna hear from no union president, we don’t wanna hear from no spokesman and nobody–we want the DA to say that he’s going to … arrest on probable cause or give the case to the feds.”