Sources To CBS2: Police Won’t Be ‘Heavy-Handed’ During Possible Future Eric Garner Case Protest

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sources told CBS2 the NYPD has laid out plans for possible protests stemming from a future grand jury decision in the death of Eric Garner in police custody.

Garner, a father of six from Staten Island, died in July after being placed in an apparent chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. He was being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes at the time.

A grand jury began hearing evidence in the case on Sept. 29, and the lawyer for the officer who placed Garner in the apparent chokehold said he expected the grand jury to take about a month to come to a decision.

The NYPD said protests are expected in New York City no matter what decision the grand jury makes on Pantaleo.

Sources told CBS2 the NYPD will use the same model as it did to handle Occupy Wall Street protests.

Those plans include assigning NYPD task force units to 12-hour shifts, sending in a large contingent of officers on scooters as well as on foot, and barricade units on standby along with mounted units and aviation.

Sources stressed, however, that the NYPD response to any future Eric Garner case protest will not be “heavy-handed” unless there is immediate damage to people or property. The watch words are “breathing room.”

In cellphone video of the Garner incident, Pantaleo 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.

The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”

An independent forensic investigator hired by the Garner family also agreed with the medical examiner’s findings.

The discussion about possible protests in the Garner case came as Mayor Bill de Blasio joined faith and civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials, and presidential cabinet members in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.

The meeting was spurred by the fallout from the police shooting that killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the case. Anti-police protests have erupted in New York and around the country since the grand jury decision.

Sources said many of those leading those protests in New York have been affiliated with the Occupy movement.

The NYPD has compiled a watch list of so-called “professional agitators” – a term police used last week for Diego Ibanez, 26, who was accused of throwing what looked like fake blood on police Commissioner Bill Bratton during a protest in Times Square last week.

Ibanez, of Brooklyn, who allegedly tossed the red substance, faces charges including assaulting a police officer, criminal mischief, obstruction of government administration and reckless endangerment.

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