Depending on where you get your news, tomorrow’s march protesting the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo will either be a tame, “self-policed” demonstration with an “understated” NYPD presence or it will be an anarchic event,with some 350 “riot cops ready” and armed with “hats and bats.”
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to join the march organized by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Sharpton will begin the day with a 9 a.m. rally at Mt. Sinai United Christian Church (15 Pike Street in Staten Island). That’s expected to last until 11 a.m., at which time supporters will begin lining up to march on the Staten Island District Attorney’s office.
An estimated 15,000 demonstrators are expected to converge on Staten Island from all around the Northeast. A “Justice Caravan” will bus supporters from Brooklyn and New Jersey to Staten Island. Buses leave at 9 a.m. from the corner of Fort Hamilton Parkway at 100th Street in Brooklyn, and from the Fred Erxleban Recreation Center (513 Richmond Street) in Elizabeth, New Jersey. (Supporters must reserve a seat on the buses ahead of time; for questions, contact march organizers at (877) 626-4651.)
The march itself will start at noon at Bay and Victory Streets, the corner where a lethal chokehold ended Garner’s life on July 17. (It’s approximately a 12-minute walk from the ferry terminal, according to march organizers.) It will end a half a mile away, at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office.
The rally, scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., is taking place at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Hamilton Avenue. That is expected to wrap up around 3 p.m.
The march is being organized by the National Action Network, and sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Service Employees International Union, and the United Teachers Federation. The families of both Garner and Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last week, will participate.
On Thursday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced she will attend as well. “I believe that the march on Saturday is a healing moment for this city, for us to come together,” Mark-Viverito told reporters. (In 2011, she was arrested for participating in an Occupy Wall Street march toward the Brooklyn Bridge.)
So far, Mark-Viverito is the only high-profile city politician to announce support for the demonstration; Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer have both said they will skip it.
Earlier this week, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce distributed a “security alert” which warned business owners “although the march is considered peaceful, there is no guarantee that everyone in attendance will act sensibly,” and advised that “personal safety and general precautions be utilized.” Some Staten Island business owners have said they will close shop on the chamber’s advice.
On Wednesday, Sharpton said organizers would not tolerate violence at the rally. “We’re activists. We’re not thugs, and we will not harbor thugs.”