NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Staten Island residents have been bracing for what they expect to be a crowd in the thousands Saturday, for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s march to protest the police custody death of Eric Garner.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, former Gov. David Paterson will join Sharpton at the head of the “We Will Not Go Back” march and rally. The march is expected to begin at 11 a.m. at 204 Bay St. across from Tompkinsville Park in Staten Island, where Garner was killed.
“No parking” signs were set up Friday along the march route, where 15,000 people were expected to fill the streets in the neighborhood Garner called home.
“This is a defining moment in Staten Island’s history,” resident Gary Phaneuf told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “This is definitely a tipping point when it comes to certainly race relations on Staten Island ”
“The outrage has not subsided,” Sharpton said. “This is not going away.”
“We need a lot of marchers to march and get justice for my husband,” Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said.
“No police officer has the right to be an arresting officer a judge a jury or an executioner for anyone,” Staten Island resident Michael Price told Burrell.
Meanwhile, representatives of Sharpton’s National Action Network and union sponsors met Friday with the NYPD Staten Island borough commander to put the finishing touches on plans for the rally.
“We are going to have an orderly, peaceful demonstration of discontent with the way things are moving,” said the Rev. Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network.
The goal of everyone involved is to avoid the ugly confrontations seen in Ferguson, Missouri after the police-involved shooting that killed Michael Brown, 18.
For its part, the NYPD is determined to have a non-confrontational police presence. Hundreds of community affairs officers will be wearing friendlier looking uniforms – light blue golf shorts – will also be on assignment.
Rally organizers said they will also self-police.
“We’ll have marshals along the route. We’ll have marshals in the crowd; marshals in the ferry terminals. We’ll have marshals galore,” Foy said. “We’re not here to destroy anything. We’re here to build a new city with a new vision.”
Instead of the original plan of marching over the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, a bus caravan will drive protesters from Brooklyn and drive across in the so-called justice caravan.
Another caravan will depart from the Goethals Bridge in New Jersey.
The plan is to march past the spot where Garner died on Staten Island last month, past the 120th precinct house and end at Richmond Terrace and Hamilton Avenue, where the protesters will rally.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, and wife, Esaw, will be joined by members of Brown’s family from Missouri. On the list of speakers are people who have worked in the NYPD and have been said to be upset with the Garner incident.
“There will be retired officers who will be speaking out as well,” Foy said. “This is not an anti-police march. This is not a, you know, we hate anybody march. This is an affirmative – we believe in our rights; we’re standing for our rights.”
Sharpton himself earlier this week likewise said there will be no tolerance for violence or misconduct at the rally.
“We do not tolerate violence at marches because you cannot fight reckless violence by becoming that,” Sharpton said earlier this week. “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.”
One worry for police has been that outside agitators could show up, much as they did in Ferguson. But police sources told CBS 2’s Kramer they have no intelligence at the present time to indicate that such a thing will happen.
But the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce sent a flier to businesses warning that “there is no guarantee that everyone in attendance will act sensibly.”
“We don’t want any problems,” said bar owner Gina Morrison. “We’re more concerned about our safety.”
“”They behave we stay open. They don’t behave we go home,”” said deli owner George Figueroa.
“It about being cautious and business wise, who’s going to want to come down to have lunch when a rally is going on in the street,” Henry from Karl’s Klipper restaurant told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “The reason we’re not opening up is because of tension or violence but business. Business is going to be dead.”
Still, the protesters are promising the rally will be peaceful because their goal is to keep attention on the case.
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 and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who was seen on video placing Garner in the 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.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Sharpton and Garner’s family held their first face-to-face meeting about the case.
Sharpton wanted to reiterate to the U.S. attorney that he is requesting a federal civil rights investigation despite the fact 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.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch has said a federal intervention is not necessary.
“How can you say you want a fair investigation, or the investigation that’s going on is not fair, before it’s completed?” Lynch said. “How can you say we need to take this out of one district attorney’s hands when the autopsy report has not been released? Al Sharpton just wants to walk through the streets and blame the police for everything that goes on in the world. That’s not the case.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has previously said the Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the local investigation.
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