The Rev. Al Sharpton Saturday bowed to mounting political pressure and abandoned his plan to lead a march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to protest police violence.
Instead, Sharpton said, he would “caravan” people on Aug. 23 “from every borough to march in Staten Island” to protest an accused cigarette peddler’s death last month after being taken down by a cop using an apparent chokehold.
“We’re calling them ‘Justice Caravans,’ ” Sharpton spokeswoman Jacky Johnson said.
Johnson said the rally would begin where Eric Garner died, on a street near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and end at the offices of the Staten Island district attorney, Dan Donovan, about a half-mile away. Donovan is conducting a criminal probe of Garner’s death. A Sharpton aide has said the march aims to pressure Donovan to arrest the cop who used the apparent chokehold.
Garner, 43, died July 17 as police tried to arrest him on a charge of selling untaxed cigarettes. The police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, is seen on a bystander’s amateur video putting Garner in what the medical examiner concluded was a chokehold, a maneuver long banned by the NYPD. Garner is heard on the video saying, “I can’t breathe.”
The city medical examiner ruled that Garner’s death was caused by a chokehold and chest compression, with obesity, diabetes and heart problems as contributing factors.
Pantaleo’s union says the officer put his arm around Garner’s neck to bring him down and did not use a chokehold. Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun and has been assigned to desk duty.
For weeks, Sharpton had been vowing to cross the bridge by foot. But a growing number of politicians objected that the plan would snarl traffic, endanger marchers and encourage other groups to use the bridge for future protests. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Saturday both said they had worries about the bridge logistics.
“I spoke to Reverend Sharpton this morning, and I told the reverend that I had concerns about the Verrazano bridge as a site for a demonstrations because it’s complicated,” Cuomo said Saturday. “There’s a lot of safety issues on the bridge, et cetera.”
Relocating the march, he said, is “a positive” and “would be in everyone’s best interest.”
With Robert Brodsky