As many as 5,000 protesters are expected to show up for Saturday's march in Staten Island as the movement spawned by the police-involved death of Eric Garner last month continues to grow, the Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday.
"Five weeks later the outrage has not subsided," Sharpton said after he and Garner's family met with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn to press the case for a federal takeover of the July 17 death of the 43-year-old man from an apparent police chokehold. "We expect three to five thousand people at a minimum there."
Sharpton said that during the 25-minute meeting Lynch was noncommittal about whether there would be a federal civil rights investigation of Garner's death.
"She did say they are reviewing and monitoring what is going on in state proceedings so far," Sharpton said, referring to the state grand jury probe announced earlier in the week by Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr.
A spokeswoman for Lynch didn't return telephone calls for comment yesterday.
Donovan's office is trying to determine if criminal charges are warranted against any of the NYPD officers involved in the incident. Legal experts believe charges could range from criminally negligent homicide to second-degree manslaughter. The city medical examiner determined that Garner died from compression of the neck from a police chokehold, as well as compression of his chest as he resisted arrest.
The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds more than two decades ago. However, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has challenged the medical examiner's findings in the case and alleged that a chokehold wasn't used.
Organizers of Saturday's march plan to move protesters by bus and van across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Bay Street area of Staten Island, from where they will march about three miles to Donovan's office. A spokesman for Donovan couldn't be reached for comment.
Reacting to reports that some Staten Island businesses along the march route plan to close in anticipation of possible trouble, Sharpton said those concerns were being stoked by fear mongers.
"I think there are those that purposely try to agitate and provoke something so that they don't have to deal with these issues," said Sharpton, referring to allegations of police misconduct.
"If anything were to happen we would be the first one to turn them [troublemakers] out of our march," Sharpton said. Earlier in the week, he had been in Ferguson, Missouri, where demonstrations had taken place after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a cop. "We do not lead violent marches."