A Saturday rally to protest the death of Eric Garner from an apparent police chokehold is turning into a significant test for Mayor Bill de Blasio. The new mayor promised to improve relations between New Yorkers and the NYPD. The march on Staten Island may be an opportunity to prove that he is following through—or it could signal that his administration has a long way to go. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
There are parallels between the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island and the deadly shooting by police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. However, the public is responding to each in very different ways.
The images of police clashing with protestors in Missouri are reminiscent those from a war zone. In New York, anger over Garner's death has not led to any such showdowns with law enforcement.
A march and rally for Garner on Staten Island this Saturday could put that relative peace to the test, however. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is ready.
"In this city, we value the right of people to make their feelings heard and the NYPD does an extraordinary job of creating a smart, flexible approach that accommodates the right to free speech and respects people's rights, but also keeps safety and order," de Blasio said.
The mayor says that there has been constant communication between the police department and the organizers of the march. He predicted it would go very smoothly.
Protest planners intend to link Garner's death—from an apparent police chokehold—to the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri teenager shot by police.
A representative from Brown's family is expected to attend the rally, which will include a march past the Staten Island District Attorney's office, which is investigating Garner's death.
Meanwhile, the mayor is trying to stay on the sidelines of the debate over whether a federal prosecutor should take over the Eric Garner case from Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan.
"I personally have not spoken with the District Attorney. I know him a bit. I respect him. From everything I can see, he is taking it very seriously and doing his job. What we have said repeatedly is if the federal government makes the decision to become involved, we will cooperate with them," the mayor said.
Several members of Congress have called for a federal prosecutor to step in.