With the support of a powerful healthcare workers union, the Rev. Al Sharpton is picking up support for a planned rally and march in two weeks in honor of the death of Eric Garner, firing back at police unions who call him a police "hater." NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
The Rev. Al Sharpton says he doesn't have time for Pat Lynch, the head of the police officer's union, and other union leaders who are critical of him.
"Why would y'all take some local guy seriously about that," said Sharpton. "I'm more concerned with police policy, than the PBA tone. I don't give them that much credit."
The officers' and sergeants' unions call Sharpton a police hater and say he's not helping police community relations with his fiery comments about Eric Garner's death.
The medical examiner says it was a chokehold that killed the Staten Island man, something police unions are blasting.
"How can you question if the medical examiner is right, when the medical examiner, examined the body and you examined the newspaper?" Sharpton said.
Sharpton is meeting with dozens of community leaders, including the powerful 1199SEIU union, which represents health care workers. It's to gain participation in a August 23 march from Brooklyn to Staten Island over the Verrazano Bridge. The focus of the march will be racial equality in policing.
"We are certainly here to say that we don't want to live in a city that doesn't have police protection, but we don't want to have fear about those same police that are there to protect us," says 1199 President George Gresham.
People who attended the meeting say they also discussed ways to address the mistreatment of teenagers who are locked up on Rikers Island.
This week, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said hundreds of young people have been brutally beaten by correction officers and other inmates.
"It is time under the de Blasio administration for the police leadership all across the board and the rank and file to recognize that we have a problem, we need better training, we need better systems in place," said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Activists say whether it's on the streets or in a jails, all people should be treated with dignity by law enforcement something they want to stress during the planned march across the Verrazano Bridge.
Lynch got a chance to fire back at Sharpton on Inside City Hall Wednesday.
Lynch echoed many of the points he made forcibly in Tuesday's press conference.
He said police officers didn't have the option to just walk away when Garner refused to be arrested.
He also accused the medical examiner's office of playing politics with its report on Garner's death.
Lynch also said Sharpton should stop calling for federal investigators to step in before local officials have finished.
"Allow the investigation to go forward, not call for a police officer to be arrested," Lynch said. "Look, we protect, as police officers, we protect Al Sharpton's right to have as an opinion, but his opinion should not be elevated above the opinion of other community folks, and we're not hearing those other folks."
Lynch has questioned whether it was appropriate for Sharpton to sit next to Mayor Bill de Blasio during a news conference about the Garner case last week.