Chokehold protesters to drive, not walk, on bridge

Created: 08/09/2014 3:24 PM WHEC.com

Demonstrators protesting the chokehold death of a man in police custody will drive, not walk, across a busy bridge to avoid any traffic problems, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday.

Sharpton announced last week that he would lead an Aug. 23 march across the bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island to seek justice for Eric Garner, who died after police tried to arrest him on Staten Island for selling loose cigarettes. Several elected officials complained that a march across the bridge would close off car traffic, massively inconveniencing people on Staten Island and elsewhere in the region.

"The issue is not the bridge," Sharpton told supporters Saturday at the Harlem headquarters of his National Action Network. "The issue is the homicide that no one has told this family or the community what they are going to do about it and who is going to be charged."

Instead of marching together across the bridge, Sharpton said, protesters will meet in Brooklyn and New Jersey and take buses and car caravans to Staten Island.

City Council members Vincent Ignizio and Steven Matteo and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo praised the change in plans.

"As we have repeatedly stated, we absolutely support his and other citizens' First Amendment right to protest," they said in a joint statement, "but have serious concerns about any demonstration that would shut Staten Island's only connection to the rest of the city, creating traffic chaos and posing public safety risks."

An amateur video shot July 17 shows Garner gasping "I can't breathe" as an officer puts him in a chokehold. The city medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

Sharpton and Garner's family are asking the Staten Island district attorney's office to bring criminal charges or to let federal prosecutors take over.

The district attorney's office is investigating.

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