Protesters gather on Fort Hamilton in support of Eric Garner

On Saturday, August 23, several hundred people gathered along Fort Hamilton Parkway in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge to demand justice for Eric Garner and others who they believe to have been killed or injured due to police handling, before heading over to Staten Island for a rally there.

Participants in the “We Will Not Go Back March,” organized by Reverend Al Sharpton, assembled peacefully, wearing T-shirts and carrying signs representing organizations which sponsored the march, including the NAACP, the National Action Network, United Healthcare Workers East and the United Federation of Teachers.

“It’s happening in also a broader context in demanding an end to police brutality and demanding changes in policing so that policing becomes a non-racist system,” said Joel Avery, a resident of Bay Ridge.

“It’s a basic concern that the police treat people they are serving with respect,” Avery went on.

“We’re here to stop injustice in the United States,” added Haakim Rockett, a protester from one of the buses.

Another protester, Khorey Rice, said, “We want to send a clear picture that people just want equal rights and the fight still goes on.”

“I’m hoping that people don’t look at this as a black and white thing, or a police and a civilian thing, but a human thing,” said Derick Benjamin. “We’re talking about life … we must cherish life.

“I’m hoping that the turnout today will make people realize we can come together and protest peacefully,” he concluded.

Garner died on July 17 after being placed in a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo while being taken into police custody for selling loose cigarettes. Originally, the protest was planned as a march over the bridge; after concerns were voiced about the traffic impact, it was changed to “justice caravans” of buses and cars heading across the bridge to the spot where Garner died, with participants then marching to the officer of Staten Island D.A. Daniel Donovan. The New York City medical examiner has ruled the death of the 43-year-old to be a homicide.

Other people were on hand to show their support for the police.

Shannon Ryan, whose father served as a detective in the NYPD and whose husband is a former police officer, arrived with her mother Karen Fleming, holding signs to show their support for the police.

“I wanted our neighborhood police officers to know that being neighborhood residents, we support the NYPD,” said Ryan.

Ryan also went on to add, “I think that we all want peace and justice … but the way we can start to get that is by not breaking the law and by respecting the law.”

“So many residents came out, or stopped by just to show their love and support for the NYPD on a day when others were criticizing us,” said Captain Raymond Festino, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, in an email sent out to the community on Sunday, August 24.

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