Cardinal Dolan's 'interfaith gathering' to focus on healing rift between community, police

Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photographs with Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photographs with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at the Cardinal's residence in Manhattan. (Jan. 13, 2014) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at Mayor Bill de Blasio's request, plans to host a religious leaders' summit "focused on healing and deepening the relationship between police and community" in the aftermath of an accused cigarette peddler's apparent chokehold death by the NYPD.

The "interfaith gathering" of pastors, rabbis and imams is the latest attempt by de Blasio to calm an uproar -- from his left flank demanding the NYPD curb aggressive policing of quality-of-life offenses, and from police unions, who say he is insufficiently showing support to the city's 35,000 cops.

Organizers have yet to pick a date or location. De Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton will be among the participants.

"There is a tremendous need for healing at this moment," de Blasio said in a statement Friday.

Dolan said the gathering would "try to be a source of continued healing and reconciliation between our police force and the community it serves."

The accused peddler, Eric Garner, died July 17 as police tried to arrest him on Staten Island. A police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, is seen on a bystander's video putting Garner in what the medical examiner concluded was a fatal chokehold.

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Meanwhile, amid mounting political pressure, the Rev. Al Sharpton appears to be backpedaling on a planned protest march Aug. 23 to Staten Island across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. For weeks, he had been vowing to cross by foot to the borough via the 2.59-mile span. On Wednesday morning, Sharpton volunteers were handing out fliers with a picture of the bridge for a "march for justice for victims of police brutality."

Republican politicians pounced, saying that bridge is rarely shut down to vehicles, and that a march would inconvenience residents and set a bad precedent.