Thousands are expected to respond to the call by Rev. Al Sharpton to rally and march across the Verrazano Bridge on Aug. 23 to protest the illegal choke-hold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island by members of the NYPD.
The planned protest will be the first held on the connecting thoroughfare between Brooklyn and Staten Island.
One month after Sharpton’s National Action Network held a candlelight vigil at the corner of Victory Blvd. and Bay St. in Staten Island, this month’s mass protest is being called to demonstrate dissent for the police violation using the banned police procedure in restraining individuals as well as the alleged frequency and preponderance of police brutality in that precinct area.
Reportedly, the precinct there accounts for a disproportionate amount of lawsuits filed against the NYPD for police brutality and an equally alarmingly amount of city payouts and settlements due to lawsuits filed against the NYPD.
Sharpton’s organization has actively advocated for the family of 43-year-old Garner who died on July 17 in Staten Island after pleading 11 times “I can’t breathe” when police officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his entire arm around the neck of the six-feet three-inch tall asthmatic individual.
Allegedly, police stopped the father of six, Garner and in a videotaped release is heard complaining that he wanted to be left alone. In the video Garner claimed the police frequently harass him and clearly states he was not doing anything illegal when they stopped him.
Police said otherwise. It is their claim that Garner sold loose, untaxed cigarettes and was told to surrender but instead resisted arrest.
Using the choke-hold to restrain citizens has been outlawed by the NYPD for more than two decades.
In 1994, one year after the Police Department banned chokeholds, Anthony Baez from the Bronx died when a police officer put him in a chokehold during a dispute over a touch football game.
Last week, medical examiner ruled Garner’s cause of death a homicide caused by a choke-hold restricting air.
Garner’s acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were also mentioned as contributing factors to his death.
Reportedly, the medical examiner determined that Garner’s tragedy was precipitated by “the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
Since that time, Sharpton has called for the NYPD to impose a “perp walk” with the officer accused of using the prohibitive procedure. Sharpton said the district attorney of Staten Island “needs to say, ‘I’m moving forward to an arrest’ or ‘I’m deferring to the federal government.”
“Only when they see an example will they stop abusing the law,” Sharpton said on his radio talk show.
Last Saturday, actress Alfre Woodard and a throng of outraged citizens packed into the weekly NAN rally joining Garner’s family and several New Yorkers who said they had been victimized by the strong-arm technique.
“I just want them to do the right thing and give me justice for my husband,” Garner’s wife Esaw said.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said she was grateful for the medical examiner’s report saying her son’s death was caused by a banned police maneuver.
In response to the medical examiner’s findings, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued this statement:
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Eric Garner, on this day we have received the medical examiner’s findings concerning the cause of his death. My administration will continue to work with all involved authorities, including the Richmond County District Attorney, to ensure a fair and justified outcome.
“We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other-and that’s a responsibility that Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously. I’ve said that we would make change, and we will. As mayor, I remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won’t happen again.
“I’d also like to thank the Office of Chief Medical Examiner for conducting a thorough and expeditious review of the cause of death in this tragic incident.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD’s use-of-force training is lacking and has pledged to retrain all 35,000 officers.
Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge and another officer was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were suspended without pay. The alleged reasoning was that EMS technicians failed to apply oxygen or aid the unconscious Garner as he laid helpless and likely in distress from the encounter with police.
In addition, they filed reports saying Garner did not need medical assistance when clearly from video footage he laid prone and unconscious as they stood over his body.
The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, expressed sympathies to Garner’s family but noted that Garner “was a man with serious health problems.”
“We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred,” Lynch said.
The march is also being held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, a Black youth who was murdered in Bensonhurst by racists.