NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is planning a low-key approach for policing Saturday’s mega-march, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, to protest the struggle with police that left a Staten Island man dead.
Sources tell CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer the plan is designed to be comprehensive, but not in your face.
On Thursday, police signs were up at the site where Eric Garner died in police custody last month. They warn of no parking in the area Saturday because thousands of protest marchers are expected to crowd the streets for hours.
Sources told CBS 2 that the NYPD intends to keep the visible police presence as unthreatening as possible. There will be no heavy police helicopter surveillance, sources said. Hundreds of police community affairs officers will man the route. They were light blue shirts that often look more like golf shirts than regular police uniforms.
But that does not mean there won’t be enough manpower.
Uniformed cops will be there, too, and there will be zero tolerance for violence, police said.
“Those who might seek to come to disrupt, I would encourage if they do, don’t come,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “Because you’re not going be to allowed to disrupt.”
Despite the brouhaha about the march going over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the final plan does have the event starting in Brooklyn. But instead of marching over the span, protesters will go by bus.
A bus caravan will leave Fort Hamilton Parkway and 100th Street in Brooklyn, drive across the bridge and stop on Bay Street in Staten Island, where Garner died.
Then protesters will march past the Staten Island district attorney’s office, past the 120th Precinct police station and end at Richmond Terrace and Hamilton Avenue, where they will rally.
Sharpton said he expects some police officers to speak at the rally.
There was a series of small protests on Staten Island on Thursday. Meanwhile, business owners were deciding whether to close Saturday to avoid any potential unpleasantness.
The Every Thing Goes Book Cafe on Bay Street is staying open. But Gina Morrison, a bar owner, said she will close her business.
“We don’t want any problems,” she said. “We’re more concerned about our safety.”
Also Thursday, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Sharpton and Garner’s family held their first face-to-face meeting about the case.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Sharpton wanted to reiterate to the U.S. attorney that he is requesting a federal civil rights investigation despite that Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan is convening a special grand jury to weigh evidence in the case.
Lynch made no guarantees. She said she will be following the progress of the grand jury.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has previously said the Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the local investigation.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died July 17 after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In cellphone 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.
The medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s chokehold as well chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.” Asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors, the medical examiner said.
Chokeholds are banned by the NYPD, but allowed under state law.
The police union called the medical examiner’s report “political” and disputes that the officer used a chokehold.
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