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Sharpton to lead ‘justice caravans’ across Verrazano

Reverend Al Sharpton will still cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Saturday, August 23 – just not by foot. Amidst backlash, the reverend has backpedaled on his plans to protest aggressive policing by heading a march across the thoroughfare, said Sharpton’s people.

Instead, announced the office of Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem, protestors will ride across the bridge in “justice caravans” of buses and cars, and reconvene at the spot where Staten Island resident Eric Garner was taken into police custody on July 17 and placed in a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo; the New York City medical examiner has ruled the death of the 43-year-old to be a homicide.

“If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus,” the Reverend told a cheering crowd at the headquarters on Saturday, August 9. “Our goal is not to slow folks down. Our goal is to speed justice up.”

Once on the Island, he said, protestors will march to the office of the Staten Island district attorney, Daniel M. Donovan Jr. To date, the D.A. has not brought any charges against Pantaleo, or any of the cops caught on camera during the Garner arrest.

Sharpton’s original plan, which would have seen hundreds of pedestrians blocking lanes of traffic onto the Island, sparked safety concerns and had some electeds up in arms.

“Our nation provides everyone the right to free speech, and the right to protest,” said State Senator Marty Golden. “That being said, it is unconscionable to shut down the only connection between Brooklyn and Staten Island. By doing so, those who wish to protest violence are leaving both Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, as well as Staten Island, in a position where traffic will be at a standstill, leaving emergency vehicles as well as residents trapped on either side of the bridge.

“To allow a group to shut down an interstate without permits, approval or significant discussion with NYPD, MTA, and city and state officials is just wrong,” he went on.

Congressmember Michael Grimm, who represents both sides of the bridge, agreed.

“There’s a reason the bridge has rarely been closed in its 50-year history, because the major disruption and safety risks are massive,” said Grimm. “Our small businesses, already coping with the outrageous tolls, would bear an even greater financial burden, families would be severely impacted, and the Staten Island Expressway would be a parking lot.”

Still, the congressmember said, he is not protesting the protest.

“There’s no question that a fair, unbiased review of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Garner’s tragic death must go forward, but there is an appropriate time, place, and manner of holding a demonstration without wreaking total havoc on a community,” he said.

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