The Rev. Al Sharpton said on Saturday he will cancel a planned protest that would have shut down one of New York City’s busiest bridges and instead will lead a march on the office of the district attorney who is probing the death of Eric Garner.
Sharpton’s call for a march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which leads from Brooklyn to Staten Island and has no pedestrian walkways, had ignited a furor among city officials and politicians who were concerned about the potential for injuries and gridlock during the Aug. 23 demonstration.
Speaking on Saturday, Sharpton said the minor controversy was distracting from the issue at hand, so he announced a change of plans.
“This is about an act and we want to resolve that act,” he said.
Garner died on July 17 after a clash with police officers over the sale of untaxed cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island. Amateur videos of the incident show Officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in what appears to be a chokehold and then wrestling Garner to the ground.
Garner, who suffered from chronic asthma and cardiovascular disease, could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” while another officer held him down.
The use of chokeholds is outlawed within the NYPD and in most major city police departments.
On Aug. 23, Sharpton said marchers will meet at various points throughout the five boroughs and New Jersey, drive across the bridge, and then march from the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner died to the offices of Richmond County Dist. Atty. Daniel Donovan.
With the New York City medical examiner’s office ruling Garner’s death a homicide last week, Donovan’s office must decide whether to convene a grand jury or attempt to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo and Officer Justin D’Amico.
Pantaleo remains on modified duty, stripped of his gun and badge. D’Amico was placed on desk duty.
A spokesman for Donovan’s office declined to comment on Sharpton’s planned protest.