NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — There has been a major change to Rev. Al Sharpton’s plan for a march calling for action following the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in Staten Island last month.
Sharpton and Garner’s family unveiled the plans outside the National Action Network in Harlem on Saturday.
Sharpton said they will no longer physically march over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Aug. 23, but instead protesters will take buses, 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported. He said caravans will be coordinated throughout the city to bring people over the span of the bridge.
Rev. Sharpton Changes Plan For March Over Verrazano Bridge
“Those caravans will come from everywhere, from all the bridges,” Sharpton said to the crowd. “And we will bring those caravans to the toll bridge of the Verazzano, and we’re going to line up and we’re going to Staten Island for justice for Eric Garner.”
Protesters will then march from the site where Garner was taken down by police to the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, 1010 WINS reported.
“We will march from the site that Eric was choked to Donovan’s office and now we’re going to stay a little while and rally that afternoon,” Sharpton said Saturday.
The change in plans comes as many city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, expressed concern with the march across the bridge.
“To accommodate pedestrians as they do the marathon or bicycle race, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to put down special ramps over those expansions. Who is going to pay for that?” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
“There are very real logistical challenges in regard to the bridge and I think Reverend Sharpton has acknowledged that,” Mayor de Blasio added.
Sharpton said Saturday that the protest is not about the bridge or about Staten Island. He said it’s about seeking justice for Garner.
“If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus, get on the caravan,” Sharpton shouted to the enthusiastic crowd. “The whole city is going to be moving.”
The reverend said Garner’s life had value and those responsible must answer for how it was taken, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“We want the DA to say that he is either gonna make an arrest on probable cause or give the case to the feds,” he said.
Reaction on Staten Island ranges widely, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.
A tweet from Staten Island City Councilman Steven Matteo reads in part, “We support right to protest, but VZ was wrong location.”
Opinion also differs on the streets of Staten Island.
“I’d rather march across the bridge because that shows our dedication. We’re really going for what we believe in,” one resident said.
“Either way, whether you’re doing it that way or this way, if it’s still a march for the same cause, then no problem,” another said.
“Whether it’s the bus, whether it’s roller skates or whether we’re on a hoverboard, we still get the point across,” one person said.
As CBS 2’s Matt Kozar reported, organizers will soon announce departure points across the area where demonstrators will be able to board buses for Staten Island.
It’s a cause that is felt most deeply by the Garner’s widow.
“Eric was a victim of brutality and homicide and we must not forget that,” she said.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed deepening tension in the wake of criticism of the police force and comments made by Sharpton on Wedneday, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“We won the election. We came out as a coalition against Stop and Frisk. We came out against some profiling. It determined the results of the mayor’s election,” Sharpton said.
The mayor shot back, saying the issue is much more than any individual.
“This is not about personalities, this is not about rhetoric,” de Blasio said. “This is about fundamental change we have to make.”
De Blasio said the Garner’s death needs to be a turning point, not an end point, Smith reported.
“It’s something that to be apart of the past. Meaning we have to move past the tragedies and the tensions to unity. We have to get everyone on the same page,” the mayor said.
Garner died on July 17 after a plainclothes police officer, who was recorded on a cell phone, placed the father of six in a chokehold after he refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
The Medical Examiner’s office ruled the Staten Island man’s death a homicide, citing the chokehold as a contributing factor.
Later this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan is expected to host a meeting with the city’s prominent religious leaders, de Blasio and Bratton, Smith reported.
De Blasio said while the formal invite list has not been set, he does expect Rev. Sharpton will be included.
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