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Thousands March on Staten Island, Demand Justice in Eric Garner Case

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Thousands of demonstrators took part in a march and rally Saturday in honor of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in police custody last month.

The event, titled "We Will Not Go Back," was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

Aside from some confusion at the start of the march, Staten Island Borough Commander Edward Delatorre said the event was free of incident.

The march was held on the 25th anniversary of the death of Yusef Hawkins, a black 16-year-old killed by a white mob. The death set off days of rioting and racial tension, none of which was present at Saturday's march.

"Community and police work together," Delatorre said. "This was not a march against the police. This was a march with the police. As you can see, when we do things together, it works out well. There were no incidents. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got arrested."

After a church service in Brooklyn earlier in the morning, worshipers boarded buses to Staten Island.


Garner's family joined Sharpton for a separate mass on Staten Island beforehand.

Demonstrators assembled near Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Tompkinsville and eventually made their way past the Staten Island district attorney's office, ending at the 120th precinct station house.

A handful of politicians and union leaders also took part in the march, including former governor David Paterson and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Marchers say they came out to demand justice for the 43-year-old Staten Islander, as well as send a much broader message to the rest of the nation.

"What has been going on here with Eric Garner and in Ferguson with Michael Brown and around the country, frankly, cities all across the United States, is absolutely ridiculous. It's absurd that police feel the necessity to use extreme force," said one march participant.

"I hope unity within our community comes from this and we can sit down and have a dialogue with the powers that be in the police department so we can come to some kind of agreement on how to fix this because the system is broken," said another march participant.

"Our people quietly, some more quiet than others, but clearly came and made a genuine declaration for police reform. When I leave here and go to St. Louis, I feel we have already sent a national message," Sharpton said.

Sources say about 1,000 police officers were on hand, but most of them were not in uniform.

They say 500 marshals, drawn from church, union, and community leaders, worked to help keep the demonstration moving and safe.

A grand jury next month will consider charges in the case, possibly against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on video putting Garner in an alleged chokehold.

Sharpton and Garner's family want federal prosecutors to take over the investigation.

Meanwhile, the man who recorded Garner's arrest has made bail on gun charges, according to his cousin.

Ramsey Orta, 22, was arrested a few weeks after Garner's death.

Police say officers saw him tucking a handgun into the waistband of a 17-year-old girl.

He pleaded not guilty to criminal possession of an unloaded firearm and is due back in court on September 5.

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