NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A pledge of zero tolerance for violence has been secured for a march to protest the death of Eric Garner in police custody on Staten Island.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the Rev. Al Sharpton made the pledge after meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
After leading protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the police-involved shooting that killed Michael Brown, 18, Sharpton said the mega-march on behalf of Garner on Saturday will be peaceful with none of the confrontations that have plagued Ferguson.
“We do not tolerate violence at marches, because you cannot fight reckless violence by becoming that,” Sharpton said, “and if it ever were to occur, we would stop it and would not tolerate it. There is a difference between thugs and activists. We’re activists. We’re not thugs, and we will not harbor thugs.”
Sharpton’s zero-tolerance for violence pledge came a meeting hosted by Cardinal Dolan at the mayor’s request. Some of the city’s top faith leaders attended the meeting, with a goal of exploring ways to improve relations between police and the community.
The mayor said he believes it can help the city which has been gripped by protests and distrust of the police in some minority neighborhoods.
New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said de Blasio’s office reached out to Dolan for the gathering before the unrest in Missouri.
“Faith communities have always played an active role as being forces for positive change, forces for good, forces for bringing people together,” Zwilling told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.
Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders were among the 17 people in attendance.
“Hope springs eternal,” Bratton told reporters as he arrived for the gathering.
Mayor de Blasio said the issues in Ferguson were on everyone’s mind.
“I think there was a deep understanding that there is a New York way of doing things,” de Blasio said. “And that it is, despite this extraordinary diversity, a way that immediately lends itself to people reaching out.”
Mayor de Blasio repeatedly emphasized the important role of religious leaders, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, but noted, “Everyone in this city ultimately has to be part of the discussion if we’re going to fix things consistently and pervasively.”
Mayor de Blasio also called for calm at the Saturday protest.
“My message is simple,” the mayor said. “This must be a peaceful protest to honor the cause that it represents. And so if you are serious about making things better, comport yourself peacefully and respectfully.”
The concern is that outside agitators could attend the march on Garner’s behalf, much as they have turned up in Missouri.
“Any act of violence will not be tolerated by the protesters — by the organizing committee, by the marshals, by the protesters themselves, and of course, by the NYPD,” de Blasio said.
“Those who might seek to come to disrupt, I would encourage if they do, don’t come, because you’re not going to be allowed to disrupt,” Bratton said.
De Blasio disclosed Wednesday that he will not be attending the demonstration Saturday. Sharpton defended the mayor’s decision, saying elected officials do not go to demonstrations about city policies, much as Sharpton himself doesn’t do city budgets.
De Blasio has tried meeting with religious and community leaders once before after Garner’s death. About three weeks ago, the mayor and Bratton sat through an embarrassing lecture from Sharpton on policing, Kramer reported.
“I also think, commissioner, that the best way to make police stop using illegal chokeholds is to perp walk the one of them that did,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also criticized Bratton’s so-called “broken windows” practice and delivered a pointed threat to the mayor, Kramer reporter.
“Given the data that we are seeing in terms of these ‘broken window’ kind of operations, it’s disproportionate in the black and Latino community,” Sharpton said to de Blasio. “If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d be a candidate for a chokehold.”
Wednesday’s meeting came a day after Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. announced that a special grand jury will examine Garner’s death next month.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office previously ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of his neck (chokehold), compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
Chokeholds are banned by the NYPD.
The grand jury will reportedly look at the actions of all police involved, as well as the Emergency Medical Services workers who responded.
The 43-year-old father of six died on July 17 after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.
PHOTOS: Eric Garner’s Funeral
In cell phone video of the incident, an officer is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!”
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who was seen on video placing Garner in an apparent chokehold, and another unidentified officer were placed on modified reassignment pending the outcome of the case.
Four emergency workers were suspended without pay pending an investigation.
Garner’s videotaped confrontation with police has caused widespread outcry and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the investigation into Garner’s death.
Accompanied by Sharpton, the Garner family plans to meet with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch on Thursday to ask for a federal civil rights investigation. One of the reasons they want it in federal court is that there would be a guarantee of a jury trial, while in state court, defendants can seek a bench trial where only a judge hears the case.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said a federal intervention is not necessary.
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